Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on the Ukraine Supplemental Budget Request
9:35 A.M. EDT
MR. HASAN: Good morning, everyone. This is Abdullah from OMB. Thanks for joining us on this call to discuss the Ukraine supplemental budget request. As a reminder, this call is on background, attributable to "administration officials," and embargoed until 10:30 a.m. today.
For your awareness, but not for reporting purposes, joining us on the call today are [senior administration officials] and [senior administration official]. We also have additional officials available to answer questions as needed.
I will, however, just note at the top that, unfortunately, we do have a hard stop at 9:45. So we may not have a lot of time to get through questions, but we will try to get to as many as we can.
With that, I will turn it over to our first administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, everybody, for joining. From before this conflict began, we have laid out and now implemented a three-part strategy:
We have imposed powerful sanctions and unprecedented export controls on Russia.
We have bolstered NATO's force posture on the eastern flank.
And we have provided robust military and other assistance to Ukraine as it sought to defend its territory from an outrageous and unlawful Russian attack.
To meet this responsibility, over the course of the last two months, Congress appropriated and the President allocated roughly $14 billion in funding for security, humanitarian, and economic support that has allowed the United States to respond to Russia's aggression in Ukraine at a scope, scale, and speed that has never been seen before.
Despite having no boots on the ground, our assistance has made a significant difference on the battlefield, helping the brave citizens of Ukraine to win the Battle of Kyiv and to continue to deplete the Russian military.
These funds have also helped us to reinforce the eastern flank of NATO, maintain the unity of the Alliance in the face of Russian efforts to divide us, impose severe consequences on Russia and its enablers, and collect and provide intelligence so that our allies and partners have awareness of Russian intention.
As you know, the conflict has now entered a different phase, and one that is no less dangerous, as Russia shifts the focus of its assault to Ukraine's south and east.
As we have said, this fight could well last months or more. This conflict will continue to test our unity and our collective resolve to provide Ukraine what it needs to succeed.
Thanks to the generosity of Americans and the leadership of President Biden, the United States has delivered, making us by far the largest supporter of Ukraine. The American people should be proud of that, but America and our allies must continue to deliver.
Today, the President will speak about the critical resources required for the United States to maintain our high level of assistance over the months to come. The President's funding request is what we believe is needed to enable Ukraine's success over the next five months of this war. And we have every expectation that our partners and allies, particularly those of the G7, as well as many other countries, will continue to provide comparable levels of assistance going forward so that each of us is doing our part.
My colleague will go over the specific assistance in the request with you next. The assistance includes funds that will allow us to ensure Ukraine has the weapons it needs to wage this fight, replenish our own stockpiles of key systems, help other countries to shift away from a dependence on Russian weapons, enable Ukraine's government to continue performing basic functions, address food insecurity exacerbated by Russia's war of aggression, and support Ukrainian refugees and the countries that are providing them sanctuary.
Also, as part of our effort to continue supporting Ukraine, President Biden will send a proposal for a comprehensive legislative package to make it easier to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs and elites, expand assets subject to seizure, and enable the proceeds to flow to Ukraine.
We look forward to working with Congress on this. And as you know, the United States has already been working with Allies and partners to track down assets all over the world. For example, Treasury has sanctioned and blocked vessels and aircraft worth over a billion dollars, as well as frozen hundreds of millions of dollars of assets belonging to Russian elites in U.S. bank accounts.
And earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced that Spain seized a 255-foot, $90 million yacht of sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg at the request of the United States.
This war will not end easily or rapidly, but the free world is united against this brutal invasion and we must continue to be in the best position possible to respond to a variety of scenarios. President Biden will call on Congress to keep this up. Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, thanks, [senior administration official]. And good morning, everyone. Let me quickly walk through the three key areas of this $33 billion supplemental request.
So, first, we're calling on Congress to provide over $20 billion in military and other security assistance to keep weapons and ammunition flowing to the Ukrainian people. And this includes $5 billion in additional drawdown authority, $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and $4 billion for the State Department's Foreign Military Financing program.
Second, we're calling on Congress to provide an additional $8.5 billion in economic assistance to help the government of Ukraine respond to the immediate crisis and continue to provide basic services to the Ukrainian people.
And third, we're seeking -- this provides $3 billion in additional humanitarian assistance and food security funding. And these resources will provide wheat and other commodities to people in need, build countries' resilience to the global food supply and price shock, and provide lifesaving aid to displaced people -- people displaced by Putin's war in Ukraine.
Finally, I want to highlight that this request also includes targeted funding to address economic disruptions at home and around the world due to Putin's aggression. And that includes helping increase U.S. production of food crops, such as wheat and soybeans, and funding to allow the use of the Defense Production Act to expand domestic production of critical reserves -- of reserves of critical minerals and materials that have been disrupted by Putin's war and are necessary to make everything from defense systems to cars.
So let me just close there. Can we have time for questions? And I just want to say that continued bipartisan support in Congress is vital to ensuring the Ukrainian people have the resources they need to win this war, and the administration is committed to working with lawmakers in both parties and our global allies and partners to keep that aid flowing to Ukraine uninterrupted.
So let me hand it back to Abdullah.
MR. HASAN: Thank you. And we will be ready to take questions now, Moderator. But just a heads up for reporters who will ask, "Where is the factsheet?": Don't waste your question on that. It's coming to you shortly after this call. But with that, let's go ahead and take questions.
Q: Hey, guys, thank you. Can you drill down on the seizing of Russian assets? As, of course, you know, there's some concerns about due process on this, and the House bill had to be watered down. Do you think you are able to, today, seize ill-gotten gains and transfer them to Ukraine?
And a bit of a strategic question on the war: Do you think -- in terms of the $20 billion they're using for the weapons and requests from Europe to backfill that -- that this is an opportunity for Eastern European countries to get more advanced weapons and indeed for Ukraine to get more integrated into Western and NATO weapons systems? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. I'll answer the second question, and then I'll turn it over to a colleague to answer the first question.
So, on sort of how the $20 billion will be used in the ways that you describe: You know, we have said from the beginning that while Russia had every intention of weakening and dividing the NATO Alliance, we fully expect and are using every resource we have available to us to do exactly the opposite. And we're already seeing that outcome. The Alliance is far more unified, we believe, than it has been at any time in recent memory.
And Alliance members are fully committed to this fight, contributing directly, nearly all of them, to Ukraine's efforts to defend its country, including through the provision of security assistance. That does deplete some of these countries' supplies. We are discussing with them various ways in which we can help make sure that they are -- continue to be able to defend themselves fully. And some of this funding will go toward that effort. And we'll have more to say about it as this fight goes on.
I'll turn it now over to my colleague on the first question.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I guess I'll start with the end of the question. The Department of Justice has authorities today that allow it to seize assets that are involved in certain criminal wrongdoing. And they've exercised that authority to seize assets of Russian oligarchs, including the yacht that [senior administration official] referred to earlier in his opening comments.
But what we're seeking today is an expanded and expedited administrative process that would allow for the forfeiture of property that would be conducted within the Department of the Treasury. We worked closely with DOJ to ensure that that process affords people who have an interest in the property the opportunity to raise their interest and including seeking judicial review, and also that the property seized has a nexus to criminal conduct. That with those safeguards, you know, we feel confident that it satisfies the constitutional requirements.
MR. HASAN: Great, let's try to squeeze in one more question real quick.
Q: Hi, guys. Thanks for doing this. My question is how you would like Congress to try to move this package. Do you have any preference of whether this moves with a COVID relief package that I guess is still TBD or if it would move on its own?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, this is [senior administration official]. I'm the [redacted] at the Office of Management and Budget. I'm going to say, you know, you'll see -- you'll hear the President later today talk about this. And, you know, we're -- he'll call for Congress to act on the supplemental request that he sent up earlier on COVID, and it certainly makes sense for them to move together. But you'll hear a strong call for Congress to certainly take that up -- take that COVID money back up.
But we're not going to get too far ahead of the legislative process.
MR. HASAN: All right. We will end it there. Thank you all for joining. I'm going to go ahead and send some embargoed materials over now so you have those.
As a reminder, this call was embargoed and attributable to "administration officials" on background, embargoed until 10:30 a.m. today. Thanks, everyone, for joining.
9:45 A.M. EDT
Joseph R. Biden, Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on the Ukraine Supplemental Budget Request Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355616