Biden Admin Diplomacy Foreign Policy Jessica Corbett Military Ukraine

Biden Answers Zelenskyy’s Plea to ‘Arm Ukraine Now’ With $800 Million in Weapons

Peace advocates have expressed concerns that weapons transfers from the West will draw out Russia's war while enriching arms-makers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the press in the town of Bucha on April 4, 2022. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images)

By Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams

U .S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced an even-larger-than-expected $800 million military aid package for Ukraine, which has been under attack by Russian forces since late February.

The package—which comes despite fears from anti-war voices that such weapons transfers will just further fuel the conflict—expands the type of weaponry the United States is sending to Ukraine.

“I am….not serene about this escalation,” Esquire senior staff writer Jack Holmes tweeted about the U.S. assistance.

“The Biden administration’s decision to send $800 million more in weapons and artillery to Ukraine is not in the interest of peace. It’s in the interest of weapons manufacturers and war profiteers,” said the anti-war group CodePink. “Negotiation is the only path forward.”

Biden’s move followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration on Tuesday that diplomacy to end the war is at a “dead end.”

Just hours before the U.S. announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video on Twitter calling for heavy artillery, armored vehicles, air defense systems, and combat aircraft—as he put it: “Anything to repel Russian forces and stop their war crimes.”

“Freedom must be armed better than tyranny. Western countries have everything to make it happen,” said Zelenskyy, who suggested the war could spread to other European nations if Ukraine falls to the Russian invaders. “Arm Ukraine now to defend freedom!”

Biden said in a statement released after a call with Zelenskyy that “this new package of assistance will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine.”

“These new capabilities include artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored personnel carriers,” Biden continued. “I have also approved the transfer of additional helicopters. In addition, we continue to facilitate the transfer of significant capabilities from our allies and partners around the world.”

As Breaking Defense reports, “For the first time, the U.S. will provide 18 155mm Howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds to fulfill Ukrainian requirements for fire support, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a briefing following the White House’s announcement.”

The White House’s decision also came after the Pentagon earlier on Wednesday convened a classified meeting of some of the largest arms-makers in the United States to discuss ramping up weapons shipments.

Longtime critics of U.S. foreign policy have warned how weapons transfers from the NATO governments to Ukraine could enrich these companies while exacerbating the bloodshed in the besieged country.

As The Intercept‘s Jeremy Scahill wrote last month:

In the face of heinous atrocities against civilians and a heartbreaking refugee crisis, it is understandable that good people would demand extreme action in the name of bringing it all to a halt. The tragic reality is that escalation by the U.S. and NATO will not achieve that, certainly not without grave costs, and could lead to an even worse catastrophe for Ukrainian civilians, if not a wider global conflict. In that case, the only beneficiaries will be those who are now winning the war in Ukraine: the weapons manufacturers and arms dealers.

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams earlier this month that Ukrainian officials are “trying to keep their people mobilized, they’re trying to keep the pressure on the international community to support them—this makes perfect sense that they’re asking for weapons.”

“And it makes perfect sense for those of us who have seen too many U.S. and other wars escalate terribly in those situations to say, ‘We understand it, but we have to say no, because escalation is only going to kill more people and extend it longer,'” said Bennis.

Bridget Moix, general secretary of the Quaker organization Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), on Tuesday detailed various nonviolent steps the Biden administration and Congress “can take to help end the war in Ukraine and promote long-term peace.”

“While it may feel as though more weapons and punishing sanctions are the only options in Ukraine, in fact, U.S. leaders have many nonviolent policy options available to help save lives and advance peace,” she wrote.

“They need to understand that using diplomacy, working through multilateral institutions, supporting local peacebuilders, providing humanitarian aid, and protecting refugees are not ‘weak’ responses,” Moix argued. “These are our best tools for bringing about a durable solution to the crisis.”

Jessica Corbett

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

21 comments

  1. The US public will spare no expense in its latest regime change war. Getting rid of Putin and restoring Russia to its colonial status seems to be a price worth paying for.
    We need to glance aside at the suffering of the Ukrainian peoples (not to forget the suffering of Russians), and see this war for what it is. How the public can accept without question the lies emanating from Kiev and Washington, including ‘progressives’ on the Left, is simply the fruit of decades of anti-Russian, anti-Putin propaganda.

    1. @Ted+Tripp
      That would be “former progressives.” Anyone who supports the U.S.’s position in this war is not progressive.

      You have to give them credit though: they were relentless in their anti-Russia and anti-Putin propaganda, and for many years. I guess if you do this long enough, it’s really effective, unfortunately. Americans have become like Pavlov’s dogs, thinking, feeling, and doing whatever the U.S. government tells them to.

    2. @Ted+Tripp
      “see this war for what it is”
      It is very clear and everybody can see this war is the result of Russia invasion of Ukraine

    3. @ Ted+Tripp

      The last time Russia was in a “colonial status ” was during the Mongol invasions.

  2. “…could enrich these companies” – no “could” about it – it WILL, big time and that’s the point.
    And these will not be “given” i am sure – they will be expected to be paid for, in several ways, no doubt.

    The problem it seems to me is that negotiations entail the concept of concessions – and THAT is something the US never allows, on principle – it’s our way or the highway – and I suspect that one of the prices the US expects to be paid is a Ukrainian refusal to concede as well ..

    So, as has been said -“we” will fight to the last Ukrainian – and our weapons manufacturers will make a bundle in the process – I wonder how many donations to the DP this is worth …

      1. At this point, Russia’s concessions would be simply not to destroy all of Ukraine and leave Kyiv intact, a rump Ukraine could exist.
        Before, there was the possibility that the Donbas Republics could stay as autonomous states within a Ukrainian Republic, that Ukraine could flirt with the EU (but not with NATO), that normal trading, cultural, and social relations could resume, and something else I cannot recall. But those ships have sailed.

  3. To be a war profiteer used to be a bad thing. Now these people have a role in life and death decision making? Why?

    1. To Mary Jane,
      Because that’s where the money is – for the politicians and the MIC – “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours …
      This all about money and power ….

    2. @Mary Jane Mezenberg
      And because many of these people go from government to war industry and back again, and vice versa.

  4. When it started, I asked “where’s the diplomacy.” Doing an amateur study on lead, of all things legacy, I can see its dumbing down effect on our political leaders. We are double damned and on the precipice of paying the costs.

  5. I feel I’m in an alternate universe or trapped in an insane asylum! The US and others are demanding an end to the violence in Ukraine and the only solution they’ve been able to come up with is to increase the violence with more money for weapons? What in the devil do they think more money for weapons will do? Sanctions that have not worked and in effect are counterproductive? And why should they? This tragedy started by not talking to the Russians. Strange as it may seem, the way forward is to talk to them. Perhaps I’m not in an asylum just on the outside looking in.

    1. To Robert,
      Amen! To whittle it down a bit – the US needs to encourage Zelensky to “talk to the Russians” instead of discouraging him – it seems that when he might have been more ready to, that’s when the West started promising more arms – encouraging him to continue the war, thus suggesting to him he could “win”, because we will give him the weapons to do so – again we will fight to the last Ukrainian … Is this sick, or what

      1. @SH
        Ukraine is talking to Russia and even agreed at some of the Russia conditions (no NATO, neutrality) but are not ready to accept loss of territory ( but they are ready for continuing discussions on the status of Crimea and Donbass). Russia is not ready to a compromise on anything, at least until now.
        In general there is not a good idea to base international relations on the use of force(as Russia does) and to agree to the grab of territories by means of invasion, which is what Russia means by diplomacy.

    2. @robert sinuhe
      The U.S. wants this war to drag out as long as possible. Its goal is to weaken Russia and foment regime change there. Any public U.S. claims of wanting to end the war are just propaganda and lies for the purpose of convincing people that the U.S. wants to do the right thing.

  6. Imagine how the US would have reacted if Russia had armed the Taliban or the Iraqi insurgents. It would have gone ape-shit.

    1. @Prem Chand
      Americans, and in fact the entire west, have shown that they’re complete hypocrites in how they’ve so grossly overreacted to Russia’s invasion. Don’t know what else to say about this.

  7. Zelensky has gone Strangelove. Recently he advised Biden to “quit fearing nuclear war and prepare for nuclear war.”
    Volodymyr is a TV comedian who probably doesn’t know much about nuclear war, and doesn’t know we have no effective anti-missile defense.
    So he talks about saving lives while advocating for planetary annihilation.
    But, not too different from American Denialism.

    1. @Red Hornet
      Unfortunately, all sides here have Dr. Strangeloves and General Rippers in high political and military positions: Ukraine, NATO, Russia, and the U.S. We’ll be very lucky to avoid a nuclear war, just as we were during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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