As part of an attempt to pressure Ukraine into making “appropriate progress on crucial security reforms this year,” the Biden Administration is withdrawing $150 million in military funding that Congress had already approved.
According to One America News Network, the withholding of funds came amid disruptive Russian military exercises near Ukraine’s borders.
“The department encourages Ukraine to continue to enact reforms that strengthen civilian control of the military, promote increased transparency and accountability in defense industry and procurement, and modernize its defense sector in other key areas in line with NATO principles and standards,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
While Congress has already approved a $275 million package for Ukraine, Biden is expected to provide just $125 million this year. In 2019, President Donald Trump gave Ukraine $415 million, which included lethal weapons that may have deterred Russian forces from fighting at the time.
Democrats claimed that President Trump withheld the funds to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenky to look into his Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son’s business dealing in the country. Still, a transcript of his phone call with Zelenky debunked those allegations. The famous phone call sparked a Democratic-led impeachment against Trump. He was ultimately acquitted in the Senate.
Amid Biden’s withholding, some speculated that Russia’s military was preparing a new incursion into Ukraine.
“The United States is attempting to push Ukraine into war … such a war needs to be limited in scale because the United States tends to always minimize its risks,” stated Aleksey Podberezkin, director of the Center for Military and Political Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “They would not engage in it directly, but this is one of their methods to bring collapse to a country and ultimately make leadership of the country give up its sovereignty.”
In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, April 13, Biden demanded that Russia de-escalate its military buildup and convene a peace summit on Ukraine.
Putin was said to have given Biden the “cold shoulder,” refusing to agree to a meeting with him.
According to a White House readout of the call, Biden said that the United States “will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia’s actions.”
Joe Biden famously put pressure on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in December 2015 to fire a prosecutor investigating Burisma Holdings. At this energy firm, his son Hunter served on the board of directors.
During a visit to Kiev, Biden warned the Ukrainians that unless they removed Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, the United States would withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee.
Shokin was reportedly investigating Burisma at the time of his dismissal, which “included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive team, including Hunter Biden.”
“I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” Biden said to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018. “Well, [expletive]. He got fired,” he added.