By Andrea Shalal
LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday said support for Ukraine remained a “top priority” for the United States and Europe, calling it crucial to underpin Ukraine’s military battle against Russia’s invasion.
She said the Biden administration was committed to supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and would fight to ensure a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Congress enacted “robust” and uninterrupted assistance for the war-torn country.
“We cannot allow Ukraine to lose the war for economic reasons when it has shown an ability to succeed on the battlefield,” Yellen said in remarks prepared for her third meeting with the Eurogroup euro zone finance ministers.
Yellen’s meeting with the Eurogroup comes as the Biden administration prepares to push through a new military assistance package worth well over $2 billion for both Ukraine and Israel, which is preparing a ground invasion after a deadly Oct. 7 attack by the militant Hamas group that rules Gaza.
Yellen did not address the escalating crisis in the Middle East in her remarks, but told Sky News earlier that America “certainly” could afford to stand with both Israel and Ukraine.
Some Republicans in Congress have questioned funding for Kyiv, including Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, who has been nominated to be House speaker and leads a hardline Republican party caucus backed by former president and likely 2024 nominee Donald Trump.
Some EU countries including Hungary have also challenged Brussels’s plans.
Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko told Reuters on Saturday that Ukraine is finding it harder to secure financial support.
Yellen lauded the European Union’s plans for a 50 billion euro Ukraine Facility to provide sustained economic and reconstruction support, saying that economic support should have maximum concessionality, meaning low or zero interest rates.
“Flexibility is also important, as it could enable front-loading budget support in the immediate term when it is needed most,” she said.
WINDFALL PROCEEDS TO AID UKRAINE
To ensure additional sources of revenue, Yellen reiterated that she supported “harnessing windfall proceeds from Russian sovereign assets immobilized in particular clearing houses and using the funds to support Ukraine.” Group of Seven countries committed to exploring the possibility last week.
“Ultimately, we are in it together,” Yellen said. “Our assistance is crucial to our collective national security interests and to our shared goal of a free and prosperous Europe and world.”
She said the U.S. and EU would also continue to work to impose “increasing costs on Russia for waging its reckless war,” including through the G7-led price cap on Russian oil, and a major crackdown on sanctions evasion.
The EU’s 12th sanctions package, currently under discussion, was an opportunity to take “bold, creative steps to deprive Russia of the revenue and material it uses on the battlefield,” she said.
U.S.-EU collaboration was also crucial regarding economic ties with China, Yellen said, including targeted actions to safeguard national security interests such as restrictions on certain outbound investments in sensitive technologies.
Yellen said the U.S. and EU made a constructive joint statement on the issue last spring, and Washington looked forward to supporting the European Commission’s next steps.
“We face shared risks from common vulnerabilities and dependencies, and our work to each build resilience can support one another as well,” she said.
Ongoing efforts toward a U.S.-EU critical minerals agreement would mitigate shocks like those seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, while bolstering the resilience of both economies, she said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Christina Fincher)