Biden Casts Russia, Hamas as Parallel Threats to Democracy

President Joe Biden directly appealed to the American people to support funding for Israel and Ukraine’s war efforts, warning that Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose parallel threats to US democracy.

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden directly appealed to the American people to support funding for Israel and Ukraine’s war efforts, warning that Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose parallel threats to US democracy.

The roughly 15 minute Oval Office address precedes a formal White House request that Congress provide approximately $100 billion in resources for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and the US southern border. Biden argued that supporting Ukraine and Israel in their fights against Russia and militant groups, respectively is “vital for America’s national security.”

“I know these conflicts can seem far away, and it’s natural to ask why does this matter to America,” Biden said Thursday. “Hamas and Putin represent different threats. They share this in common: they both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy.”

Biden faces geopolitical challenges in the form of two major wars breaking out within two years, threatening global stability as he enters a bruising 2024 presidential election in which his likely opponent’s foreign policy stands in direct contrast to his.

The rare nature of the Oval Office address — just the second of Biden’s presidency — underscores his firm belief that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and bloody massacre on Israel by Hamas threaten democratic nations worldwide. The US and EU have designated Hamas a terrorist group. 

“History has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction,” Biden said.

Biden said he would send Congress an “urgent budget request to fund America’s national security” and “critical partners including Israel and Ukraine” Friday.

The ask will include $60 billion in funding for Ukraine over the next year, as well as $14 billion to boost Israeli defenses. The request will also include $10 billion for humanitarian efforts – including in Gaza – $14 billion for efforts to secure the border and combat fentanyl trafficking, and $7 billion for other national security priorities, including for the Indo-Pacific region, according to a person familiar with the request. 

The Indo-Pacific funding is expected to bolster allies and partners like Taiwan, according to people briefed on the ask. The final numbers will be released by the White House on Friday in an official supplemental request sent to Capitol Hill.

White House Eyes $100 Billion Ukraine, Israel and Border Ask

The president faces a tall task in getting Congress to pass the funding requests. 

The Biden administration failed to gain lawmakers’ approval for a package last month containing roughly $24 billion in Ukraine aid, amid opposition from ultraconservative Republicans. 

There is bipartisan support in Congress for financing Israel’s war-time needs, but public opinion remains mixed. Americans’ support for backing Ukraine has also waned since the conflict began last year.

Complicating matters further is the House’s failure to elect a new Speaker following the ouster of Representative Kevin McCarthy. The House has been stuck in limbo without the power to act on legislation as Republicans have been unable to agree on a replacement.

“We can’t let petty partisan angry politics get in the way of our responsibility as a great nation,” he added. 

Biden also argued for America’s involvement in global affairs, pushing back against the politics of isolationism of predecessor Donald Trump, which is contributing to conservative resistance to continued support for Ukraine. Biden called additional funding a “smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations.”

Biden’s address comes one day after he paid a daring war-time visit to Israel, during which he embraced the nation’s pain and historical wounds following the Oct. 7 assault that killed more than 1,400 in the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

The US president in Tel Aviv pledged to ask Congress for “an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense.” He said the request would help supply Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system with needed ammunition to shoot down missiles and rockets. Biden has also sent warships to the eastern Mediterranean to deter other actors, such as the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah, from entering the conflict. 

Biden Fails to Calm Fears of Wider War in Brief Israel Visit 

En route to Washington from Israel, Biden salvaged an agreement on humanitarian aid, which could help assuage critics of Israel’s government at home and abroad. 

Israel’s Iron Dome Risks Getting Overstretched If War Widens

Biden in his address cautioned Israel not to be consumed by “rage” and commit similar “mistakes” the US made following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, an apparent reference to the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those words could affect Israel’s war planning as it readies a ground assault of Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

And the president addressed fears about a rise in hate crimes, particularly against Jewish or Muslim Americans, citing the killing of a six-year Palestinian boy in Illinois. Following his speech Thursday evening, Biden spoke with the slain child’s father and uncle, the White House said. 

“We can’t stand by and stand silent when this happens. We must without equivocation denounce anti-antisemitism. We must also without equivocation denounce Homophobia.”

–With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron, Akayla Gardner and Jack Fitzpatrick.

(Adds details on funding request in 8th paragraph)

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