Biden Reaffirms Support for Ukraine Amid Concerns About Russia-Iran Ties
WASHINGTON — President Biden marked the start of a second year of war in Europe on Friday by announcing billions of dollars in additional military aid for Ukraine, imposing more sanctions on those helping President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and delivering a grim warning about an alliance between Russia and Iran.
Just days after making a secret trip to Ukraine’s capital, Mr. Biden joined the leaders of the other Group of 7 nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain — in reaffirming his support for the beleaguered country and condemning Russia’s invasion a year ago.
“A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase the people’s love of liberty,” Mr. Biden wrote in a statement on Twitter, alluding to Mr. Putin. “Brutality will never grind down the will of the free. And Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never.”
The Biden administration announced economic sanctions on more than 200 individuals and entities in Russia and other countries that it says are supporting Moscow’s war. The Pentagon also said on Friday that it would spend $2 billion to supply the Ukrainian military with new drones and anti-drone systems, as well as additional ammunition for artillery and long-range rocket systems. In an interview with ABC News’s David Muir on Friday night, however, Mr. Biden said he was ruling out sending F-16 fighter jets “for now.”
Together, the efforts build on a more than yearlong campaign to leverage economic and military tools against Mr. Putin. But the prospect of sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies did not prevent the invasion, nor has their implementation forced the Russian leader to negotiate an end to his brutal war.
And on Friday, Mr. Biden’s administration said it sees growing evidence that Russia may be planning to provide Iran with fighter jets as part of a deepening military relationship, with implications for the Ukraine war and security in the Middle East.
John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, did not offer detailed intelligence evidence to support the accusation, but said U.S. officials believe that the possible provision of jets to Iran follows shipments of artillery rounds from Iran to Russia.
“In November, Iran shipped artillery and tank rounds to Russia for use in Ukraine,” Mr. Kirby said. “And Russia is planning to cooperate with Iran to obtain even more military equipment. In return, Russia has been offering Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics and air defense.”
The announcement comes as the United States has warned that China may also be considering whether to provide military support to Russia.
On Friday evening, Mr. Biden said there was “no evidence of that so far.”
“I had a long conversation with Xi about this in the summer,” he said, referring to President Xi Jinping of China. “I said, ‘Look this is not a threat, it’s just a statement. When, in fact, Europeans saw what was happening and Americans saw what was happening in Russia, in Europe, guess what? Six hundred corporations pulled out and left.’ I said, ‘You told me the future of China rests on investment from the Western world. That matters.’ I said I’d just keep an eye on it.”
The potential new support for Russia by Iran and China is among the far-reaching global ramifications of the yearlong war, which has reshaped alliances on both sides of the conflict.
The impact on the battlefield could be significant, Mr. Kirby said, if Iran is helping Mr. Putin get around the Western sanctions intended to cripple his ability to equip his forces. But Mr. Kirby noted that the partnership also raises concerns for the Middle East, where the delivery of Russian fighter jets to Iran could alter the power dynamic in the region.
The revelations about Iran’s potential dealings with Russia came as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the Group of 7 nations in a virtual gathering Friday morning.
Mr. Zelensky said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app that he had presented the leaders with detailed requests for more support in five areas as he tries to defend his country and reclaim territory seized by the Russians over the past year: weapons, sanctions, finances, justice and unity.
“I thanked the partners for their unity and help during this year,” Mr. Zelensky wrote. “We withstood. We started to free our land from Russian evil. We are in a return of security to international relations. And we know that our coalition of defenders of freedom can become a coalition of winners in 2023.”
As Mr. Zelensky and the other leaders declared their unity, the United States announced a series of broad new actions aimed at helping Ukraine on the battlefield and increasing the economic pressure on Russia.
Officials at the Treasury Department said the sanctions would target more than 30 people and companies in countries outside Russia that are connected to the effort to evade existing prohibitions. They include the Moretti procurement network, a trading group run by Walter Moretti, a Swiss-Italian business executive, Treasury officials said.
Among the targeted companies are those helping to produce carbon fiber, which can be used in military equipment, the officials said.
Treasury officials said that Russians who have already been cut off from large, multinational banking systems have frequently tried to access their money through smaller banks. The new sanctions will target several smaller banks across the globe, the officials said.
The Commerce Department on Friday added 86 companies and organizations that it said had aided Russia’s war — or engaged in other activities contrary to U.S. national security interests — to a list that prevents them from buying certain U.S. products and technologies. Seventy-nine of the sanctioned entities are in Russia, while others are based in China, Canada, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the department said.
The department also placed restrictions on selling technology to Iran, following the discovery of Iranian drones on the Ukrainian battlefield.
White House officials said the United States would raise tariffs on about $2.8 billion worth of Russian metals, minerals and chemical products and that it would use tariffs to significantly increase costs for aluminum that is smelted or cast in Russia.
The arms and munitions announced Friday, unlike much of what America has previously shipped, will not come out of Defense Department stockpiles. Rather, the United States will buy the items from manufacturers and send them to Ukraine, a process that is intended to sustain Ukraine’s long-term military needs but delays deliveries by months or even years.
The United States provided about $54 billion in aid to Ukraine last year, much of it military assistance. In late December, Congress approved an additional $50 billion in Ukraine aid to be spent over the course of the year. Friday’s announcement was part of that more recent funding.
The latest offering includes Cyberlux K8, Switchblade 600, Altius-600 and Jump 20 drone systems, according to a Pentagon statement. It also includes additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS; 155-millimeter artillery rounds; munitions for laser-guided rocket systems; mine-clearing equipment; and communications gear.
“Today’s solemn anniversary is an opportunity for all who believe in freedom, rules and sovereignty to recommit ourselves to supporting Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul — and to recall that the stakes of Russia’s war stretch far beyond Ukraine,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement that accompanied the aid announcement.
The State Department announced more than $10 billion in new nonmilitary aid to Ukraine, nearly all of it direct budgetary support for its government. The money is meant to help maintain basic services like health care and education.
At the United Nations, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Ukraine had become an “inspiration to the world.”
“Every step of the way, Ukraine has shown it will not be subjugated,” Mr. Blinken wrote on Twitter. “The United States proudly stands with Ukraine as it defends itself, and we will continue to do so for as long as it takes.”
Eric Schmitt and Michael Crowley contributed reporting.