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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the press in the town of Bucha on April 4, 2022. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

Jessica Corbett

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."

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