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Wake Up To Politics - April 13, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Biden steps up Ukraine aid, rhetoric
Wake Up To Politics - April 13, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, April 13, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 209 days away. Election Day 2024 is 937 days away.

Biden steps up Ukraine aid, rhetoric

In an interview on “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signaled out one factor that he said could make or break his country’s chances of victory against Russia.

It all “depends on [how fast] we will be helped by the United States,” Zelensky said. “To be honest, whether we will be able to [survive] depends on this. I have 100% confidence in our people and in our armed forces. But unfortunately, I don’t have the confidence that we will be receiving everything we need.”

When he said that, the U.S. had already supplied more than $1.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion. “The United States has helped a lot,” he acknowledged, before adding that more support was needed. “I don’t know if I have the right to say that.”

As early as today, President Biden is expected to heed Zelensky’s call for more military equipment.

According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration is poised to send another $750 million in military aid to Ukraine. Per the Post, the package is set to include “howitzer cannons, coastal defense drones, and protective suits to safeguard personnel in the event of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack.”

The package will “dramatically expand the scope of weapons” that the U.S. has given Ukraine, the Post reported; a former U.S. official described the new shipment to NBC News as “a package that’s built around the idea of larger-scale combat.” (NBC also reported that the U.S. will be providing “more and better intelligence with the Ukrainians.)

The new equipment will be funded using Biden’s presidential drawdown authority, which allows the president to authorize transfers of U.S. military equipment without congressional approval during an emergency. The Ukraine aid package passed by Congress last month doubled Biden’s drawdown authority.

Presidents Biden and Zelensky at the White House last year. (Adam Schultz / White House)

The sophisticated weapons being sent in this package signal a turning point in U.S. military aid for Ukraine.

As Ukraine prepares for a bloody new phase of its war against Russia — expected to center around the eastern Donbas region — the U.S. and other Western countries have become newly willing “to provide Ukraine with military aid once thought too provocative and cumbersome for a war Russia was expected to win in weeks,” Axios notes.

At first fearful of antagonizing nuclear-armed Russia, the Biden administration originally sent Ukraine only “defensive” weapons. But as the war has dragged on — and new atrocities have come to light — those fears have fallen away. Other countries have also begun sending heavier weaponry.

According to the Post, some of the weapons expected to be included in the new aid package “are new to Ukrainian troops and would probably require training before they can be used in combat.” A senior U.S. defense official told reporters that the Biden administration is now open to conducting such training.

The new U.S. efforts will also extend to the private sector: per Reuters, Defense Department officials will meet with leaders from the top eight U.S. weapons manufacturers today, “to discuss the industry’s capacity to meet Ukraine's weapons needs if the war with Russia lasts years.”

Meanwhile, Biden has also slowly been stepping up his rhetoric on the war.

The president has frequently gotten out in front of other U.S. officials, first by calling Russian president Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and then by declaring that Putin “cannot remain in power.”

He did so again on Tuesday, accusing Putin of committing “genocide” in Ukraine. “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is trying to wipe out the idea of being Ukrainian,” Biden added.

It was the first time his administration had used the term “genocide” to refer to Putin’s actions.

Policy brief: Global

Rounding up the latest news in key policy areas, brought to you by WUTP’s team of contributors.

It’s Wednesday, so here’s Miles Hession with the top international headlines you should know:

Shehbaz Sharif was sworn in as the new prime minister of Pakistan following the ouster of former leader Imran Khan. Khan faced defections from his own party and growing discontent in parliament, and sought to dissolve parliament to hold early elections to avoid a no-confidence vote. The Pakistan’s Supreme Court blocked this move, allowing a no-confidence vote to take place which saw Khan voted out and Sharif sworn in.

Sharif hails from one of Pakistan’s two main political dynasties. Sharif’s ascendance marked his return to the role following his ousting in 2017, and represents a turn back to old Pakistan.” While Khan, a former cricket player and “anti-politician,” was removed with much popular support, protests have broken out across the country with anti-American sentiments riding high. Sharif is likely to face off with Khan again in the next parliamentary elections, which must take place before October 2023.

Shehbaz Sharif, the new prime minister of Pakistan. (Sharif’s office)

“Partygate” is causing headaches once again for British prime minister Boris Johnson. After an investigation into illegal parties held at the prime minister’s residence during a Covid lockdown, Johnson was issued a fine on Tuesday. Johnson is now the first sitting British prime minister to be punished for breaking the law, sparking new calls for his resignation.

Johnson has rejected these calls — some from his own party — but a no-confidence vote remains possible. If such a vote were to be held, Johnson could lose leadership of his party and be forced to step down as prime minister. Still, Johnson has survived many similar scandals in the past and has a strong grip on his party.

Shanghai, the largest urban center in China, has entered a strict lockdown due to rising coronavirus cases. The lockdown has shut down many manufacturers in and around the city, including one of the largest smart-phone manufacturers in the world, creating new strains on global supply chains.

Within the city, Shanghai citizens have also struggled to access food amid shortages during the lockdown. Viral videos have shown people screaming from their windows in protest of the harsh restrictions.

Catch up

What else you should know this morning.

In New York, a manhunt is ongoing after a mass shooting at a Brooklyn subway station on Tuesday. Authorities have named a “person of interest” in the attack, which injured 29 people.

  • Also, New York’s Democratic lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin resigned on Tuesday after being arrested and indicted for charges related to an alleged bribery scheme.

In Oklahoma, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law on Tuesday that makes it a felony to perform an abortion. Physicians who violate the law — which includes an exception only to save the life of the mother — will be subject to up to 10 years in prison and an $100,000 fine.

Plus: Often times in the “Look ahead” section, I’ll refer to bills being passed in the House by “suspension of the rules” — a process to fast-track uncontroversial bills through the chamber.

The New York Times has an interesting story on what happened when one of those votes went awry last month, after Republicans decided to block a bill to name a Florida courthouse after a trailblazing Black judge.

Look ahead

How your leaders in Washington are spending their time today. (All times Eastern)

Biden’s day: Receiving his daily intelligence briefing (10:15 am). He has nothing else on his public schedule.

Harris’ day: Joining Biden for his intel briefing (10:15 am), convening a meeting with Cabinet officials to discuss the Biden administration’s efforts to improve maternal health (2:15 pm), participating in a Democratic National Committee fundraiser (6:15 pm).

The spouse schedules: First Lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona will mark the Month of the Military Child by visiting the elementary and high schools at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri. They will deliver remarks at a school assembly celebrating military children (3 pm).

  • Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will visit a Jewish day school in D.C. to mark Passover with elementary and middle school students (2 pm). Passover begins on Friday; Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president.

Also at the White House: Press secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing (3 pm).

On Capitol Hill: Both chambers of Congress are on recess until April 25.

  • Per Politico, former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin will participate in an informal interview with the House January 6 committee today.

At the Supreme Court: The justices aren’t hearing any cases until April 18.

Links to watch for yourself: WH briefing

Before I go...

I was walking on M St. here in Washington, D.C. yesterday and happened to pass by the Ukrainian embassy.

Since today’s top story was about Ukraine, I figured I would share some pictures of the colorful display of support that’s spontaneously popped up outside the embassy. As you’ll see, people have left flowers, stuffed animals, and other items to express solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Take a look...

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Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe