WASHINGTON — President Biden on Monday signed an updated version of the Lend-Lease Act that supplied Britain and eventually other allies during World War II, evoking the spirit of the epic struggle for democracy of the last century as he paved the way for further arms deliveries to Ukrainians are fighting to repel Russian invaders.
“Every day Ukrainians fight for their lives,” Biden said as he passed the legislation in the Oval Office. “The cost of the fight is not cheap, but giving in to aggression is even more expensive.”
The original Lend-Lease Act was enacted in March 1941, when the United States was still officially neutral during World War II, as a way for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to send weapons and other supplies to Britain, since it is essentially was confronted only with Nazi Germany. One of the other allies it later aided was the Soviet Union.
Now Moscow will be on the other side of the arms channel, as the modern version, called the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, will send weapons and equipment not to Russian soldiers, but to those fighting against them. The law will waive time-consuming requirements for arms supplies to Ukraine, speeding up shipments deemed critical to its defense against Russian forces.
The legislation passed unanimously in the Senate and with only 10 Republicans voting no in the House. Mr. Biden was joined in the low-key ceremony by Vice President Kamala Harris, Maryland Democrat Senator Ben Cardin, and representatives Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, and Victoria Spartan, an Indiana Republican, native of Ukraine.
Biden signed into law the same day Russia celebrated Victory Day, the 77th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s Allied defeat, a victory made possible in part by the original Lend-Lease Act.
“This day should be about celebrating peace and unity in Europe and the defeat of the Nazis in World War II,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing afterwards. “And instead Putin is twisting history, changing history, or trying to change it, I would say, to justify his unprovoked and unjustified war.”