Yellen says U.S. would be ‘responsible for Ukraine’s defeat’ if aid fails in Congress

By David Lawder

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that the United States would be “responsible for Ukraine’s defeat” if Congress fails to approve the Biden administration’s latest multi-billion-dollar funding request for the war-torn country.

Yellen told reporters on a trip to Mexico City that the funding – particularly for Ukraine’s general government budget support – was “utterly essential” and a pre-condition to keep International Monetary Fund support flowing to Ukraine.

“I’ve talked to members of Congress, my colleagues have. I think they understand this, that this is a dire situation and we can hold ourselves responsible for Ukraine’s defeat if we don’t manage to get this funding to Ukraine that’s needed, and I’m including direct budget support here because that’s utterly essential,” Yellen said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff said that postponement of the U.S. aid created a “big risk” that Ukraine would lose its nearly two-year-old war against Russia’s invasion.

Zelenskiy later canceled plans to address Congress to appeal directly for U.S. aid as Congress wrangled over Republican demands to tie the aid to a revamp of U.S. immigration and border policies. U.S. lawmakers have been debating a supplemental spending package of over $100 billion that would include aid to Ukraine and Israel, as well as border funding.

Yellen said the U.S. funding for Ukraine was also essential for U.S. allies in Europe that were providing more generous aid to help Ukraine prevail in its struggle against Russian aggression.

“Ukraine is just running out of money,” Yellen said. “They’re spending more than every penny they’re taking in, in tax revenue, on military salaries and defense, and they wouldn’t have any schools or hospital or first responders if not for the money we’re sending to them to support them.”

The U.S. aid to Russia has come with “very strong controls to guard against any misuse of the funds, any corruption,” Yellen said, adding that the government budget support was being channeled through the World Bank, which has strong anti-corruption safeguards to ensure the money goes to intended uses.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)