BRUSSELS — Finance Minister Janet L. Yellen on Tuesday urged European countries to ramp up their spending to support Ukraine as Russian attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure showed little sign of abating.
The United States and Europe have worked closely together to impose sweeping sanctions against Russia in the nearly three months since its president, Vladimir V. Putin, ordered an invasion. But were less aligned with the need to support Ukraine’s economy and help rebuild it once the war is over.
Congress has already approved a $13.6 billion emergency package for Ukraine and is expected to approve another $40 billion in aid. While the European Union and international financial institutions have also made significant contributions, Ms Yellen said more needs to be done.
“I sincerely ask all our partners to join us in increasing their financial support to Ukraine,” Ms Yellen said in a speech at the Brussels Economic Forum, according to her prepared remarks. “Our concerted efforts are vital to ensure that Ukraine’s democracy gains the upper hand over Putin’s aggression.”
The finance minister is in the midst of a week-long trip to Europe, with stops in Warsaw, Brussels and Bonn, Germany, where she will meet her colleagues at the summit of the Group of 7 finance ministers. Aid to Ukraine is expected to be a central theme of that meeting.
Ms Yellen said Ukraine has immediate financial needs and has no money to pay soldiers, pensioners and workers to keep the government running.
“It is clear that the bilateral and multilateral support announced so far will not be enough to meet Ukraine’s needs, even in the short term,” she said.
Whether her call will be heeded remains to be seen. European nations face their own economic pressures, including rapid inflation and rising energy costs, and major challenges lie ahead if they are to get rid of Russian energy.
Ms Yellen said the United States would help break Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, including by increasing US exports of liquefied natural gas. She acknowledged that some climate targets to reduce emissions could be reversed by the need to rely on coal and fossil fuels, but she said the current predicament should be a reminder of the need to “improve our efforts on clean and renewable energy”.
In her speech, Ms Yellen said that Russia’s decision to stop gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria should be a lesson that Western countries should not trade their national security for cheaper resources. That situation has now made them vulnerable to countries that can use their abundance of natural resources to disrupt markets.
War between Russia and Ukraine: important developments
She cited China as a concern because of its supply of rare earth minerals used to make airplanes, cars and high-tech batteries.
“China is consistently building market share in certain technology products and is striving for a dominant position in semiconductor manufacturing and use,” said Ms. Yellen. “And China has used a variety of unfair trade practices to achieve this position.”
Yet Ms Yellen made it clear that she was not advocating more protectionism or a reversal of globalisation. Instead, she said, countries should not put all their eggs in one basket when it comes to international trade.
“My point is to suggest that we should consider ways to preserve free trade while mitigating some of these risks,” she said.