US assistance to Ukraine has ‘ground to a halt’ amid political infighting, White House says

American military aid for Ukraine has now “ground to a halt”, the White House said on Thursday amid bickering in Congress over a package of support for both Israel and Kyiv.

The Biden administration confirmed it has now issued the last tranche of aid that was approved in a previous assistance package.

“Yes, we have issued the last drawdown package that we had funding to support. And that’s why it’s critical that Congress move on that national security supplemental request and we get more funding,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told a press briefing.

He said: “The assistance that we provided has now ground to a halt.  The attacks that the Russians are conducting are only increasing. And now, as I talked about earlier this week, they’re using North Korean ballistic missiles to do their dirty work.”

The White House official added that the need for military aid is “acute right now, particularly in these winter months”.

Mr Kirby was answering a question on whether the financial well for Ukraine military assistance has run dry.

Ukraine’s military fears Vladimir Putin’s forces could break through its defensive lines and secure victory for Russia within days if the US does not commit to more aid, with intense fighting still taking place around the key industrial town of Avdiivka, despite the onset of the country’s bitter winter.

“It is a very difficult situation, very difficult, but the guys from the defence forces are holding their ground,” Vitaliy Barabash, the head of Avdiivka’s military administration, had said in an interview with The Independent last month.

House and Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats have been at an impasse over the GOP’s demand that Mr Biden agree to draconian changes to US immigration policies in exchange for releasing the funds for Ukraine and Israel. The proposals would make it more difficult – if not impossible – for largely non-white immigrants from South and Central America and other countries to claim asylum at the US-Mexico border or receive protection from removal from the country.

Before ending the final session of 2023, Joe Biden urged Congress to pass a $110bn aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs, which included $61.4bn for Ukraine.

The aid package also includes about $14bn for Israel as it fights Hamas and $14bn for US border security. Other funds would go for security needs in the Asia-Pacific.

The Republican lawmakers have sought to justify their opposition by complaining that allocating funds for Ukraine does not benefit the US directly and by suggesting that there are no controls on how the money at issue would be spent.

However, Shalanda Young, the White House budget director, pointed out in her letter that Mr Biden’s request for supplemental appropriations would also pump more than $50bn into US-based defence manufacturing, including bolstering capabilities for building air defence systems, tactical vehicles, and artillery shells made in numerous different states.

This comes amid intelligence reports showing Russia has been receiving increasing military support from North Korea and Iran for its continuing invasion of Ukraine.

Recently declassified intelligence found that North Korea has provided Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several ballistic missiles, Mr Kirby said last week.

While a deal for new supplies from Iran is not completed, Washington “is concerned that Russia’s negotiations to acquire close range ballistic missiles from Iran are actively advancing.”

The Biden administration has repeatedly sought to make the case that the Kremlin has become reliant on North Korea, as well as Iran, for the arms it needs to fight its war against Ukraine and has disclosed intelligence findings that it says show as much.