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Camilla Care

The US House approves aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and threatens TikTok

Vaseline 4 weeks ago

By Camille CAMDESSUS

The U.S. House of Representatives approved long-delayed military aid to Ukraine on Saturday in a rare show of bipartisan unity, while also shoring up defenses of Israel and Taiwan and threatening to ban China-owned TikTok.

The four bills in the $95 billion package were overwhelmingly approved in quick succession, though they leave the future of Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson in some doubt as he tries to fend off angry far-right opponents keep out.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement that the legislation would “provide critical support to Israel and Ukraine; providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza, Sudan, Haiti and other locations… and strengthening security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

He praised lawmakers who came together across party lines “to answer the call of history.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the $61 billion for his country, saying the military and economic aid would “save thousands and thousands of lives.”

Not surprisingly, Russia took the opposite position.

“It will further enrich the United States of America and further ruin Ukraine by killing even more Ukrainians because of the regime in Kiev,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, state news agency TASS reported.

The US Senate will consider the bill on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated his chamber would act quickly, saying in a statement Saturday that “the finish line is now in sight… America will deliver again.”

The bills are the result of months of bitter negotiations, pressure from US allies and repeated requests for help from Zelensky.

The United States has been Ukraine’s main military backer in its war against Russia, but Congress has not approved large-scale funding for its ally in nearly a year and a half, largely due to bickering between the aisles.

Biden and Democratic lawmakers in Congress have been pushing for a major new arms package for Ukraine for months.

But Republicans, influenced by the party’s presidential candidate Donald Trump, are reluctant to provide Kiev with funding for the protracted conflict.

Financing the war has become a point of contention ahead of November’s presidential election, with Biden expected to face Trump again.

After months of hesitation, Johnson finally threw his support behind the aid package for Ukraine.

“To put it bluntly, I’d rather send bullets to Ukraine than to American guys,” Johnson said.

Biden spoke with Johnson and his Democratic counterpart Hakeem Jeffries after Saturday’s vote to “thank them for their leadership and putting our national security first,” the White House said.

The handful of far-right Republicans who had threatened to impeach Johnson if he pushed for the vote in Ukraine appeared to back off on Saturday, at least temporarily.

“I’m actually letting my colleagues go home and hear from their constituents” about their anger over the vote, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said on CNN.

The Ukrainian bill also allows Biden to seize and sell Russian assets and provide the money to Ukraine to finance its reconstruction, a move embraced by other G7 countries.

– TikTok ban? –
At Biden’s request, about $8 billion under one bill would be used to counter China through investments in undersea infrastructure and boosting competition with Beijing on projects built in developing countries.

Several billion dollars would be spent on weapons for Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by China.

The first bill passed Saturday would force social media platform TikTok to divest its Chinese parent company ByteDance or face a nationwide ban in the United States, where it has about 170 million users.

Western officials have expressed alarm over TikTok’s popularity among young people, claiming TikTok is subservient to Beijing and a channel to spread propaganda – claims denied by the company.

TikTok sharply denounced the bill, saying it would “trample the freedom of speech of 170 million Americans, destroy seven million businesses and shut down a platform that contributes $24 billion annually to the American economy,” a TikTok spokesperson said .

A total of $13 billion in military aid has been allocated to America’s historic ally Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “much appreciated aid bill” showed strong support for Israel and “defends Western civilization.”

The money will mainly be used to strengthen Israel’s Iron Dome air defenses.

More than $9 billion will be earmarked to address “the dire need for humanitarian assistance for Gaza and other vulnerable populations around the world,” according to the legislation.

Officials from NATO, the European Union and Germany welcomed the passage of the Ukrainian bill in the House of Representatives.

Agence France-Presse