President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv on Monday, Feb. 20 and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The meeting came just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
During his visit, Biden announced an additional half-billion dollars in U.S. assistance — on top of the more than $50 billion already provided — for military equipment and other aid.
A 29-second video clip recently went viral (examples here, here and here) claiming to show Biden saying some of the financial support from the U.S. could be used to support the pensions of Ukrainians. Pensions are regular payments made during a person’s retirement.
Several VERIFY viewers messaged us via text and on Facebook asking us if Biden did say U.S. dollars are going to Ukrainian pension accounts.
Did President Biden say some U.S. aid to Ukraine could support Ukrainian pensions?
Yes, President Biden did say some U.S. aid to Ukraine could go toward supporting Ukrainian pensions. He didn’t say it recently, like some posters claim. He said it in April 2022.
WHAT WE FOUND
On April 28, 2022, President Joe Biden announced he signed a request to Congress to ask for an additional $33 billion in funding for “critical security, economic, and humanitarian assistance” to help Ukraine’s war against Russian forces.
The video clip that recently went viral is from that day. In the viral clip, Biden says:
“You know, and it’s going to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance as well as food, water, medicines, shelter, and other aid to Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s war, and provide aid to those seeking refuge in other countries from Ukraine.
It’s also going to help schools and hospitals open. It’s going to allow pensions and social support to be paid to the Ukrainian people so they have something — something in their pocket. It’s also going to provide critical resources to address food shortages around the globe.”
In the April 28 announcement, Biden said the funding from the U.S. could “contribute arms, funding, ammunition, and the economic support” to help Ukraine in the fight against Russia. In addition to making the comments about supporting pensions for Ukrainians, he said the additional $33 billion could:
- Keeps weapons and ammunition without interruption sent to Ukrainian fighters.
- Delivers humanitarian assistance as well as food, water, medicines, shelter and other aid to Ukrainians displaced.
- Provides aid to those seeking refuge in other countries from Ukraine.
- Helps schools and hospitals open.
- Provides resources to address food shortages around the globe, and help ease rising food prices globally.
- Uses the Defense Production Act to expand domestic production and reserve of materials like nickel and lithium that are necessary to make everything from defense systems to automobiles.
Of the spending, the CRFB says $46 billion of that went toward non-defense departments needs:
- $26.9 billion to an economic support fund
- $7.9 billion to international disaster assistance
- $6.6 billion to refugee assistance
- $1.5 billion for assistance for Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia (or countries that could be impacted by the war in Ukraine)
- $3.1 billion for other non-defense needs.
Ukraine’s funding was allocated via the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which became law in December 2022. This is also known as the omnibus spending bill, which funds several agencies or areas of government.
The bill doesn’t specify how Ukraine must spend what it receives from the U.S., and there is no specific wording about supplementing Ukrainian pension funds.
The law does say funding in Ukraine could be used to support “training; equipment; lethal assistance; logistics support, supplies and services; salaries and stipends; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine, and to other forces or groups recognized by and under the authority of the Government of Ukraine, including governmental entities within Ukraine, engaged in resisting Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), foreign aid is very broadly defined and the current foreign aid system was created by the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. The federal website foreignassistance.gov tracks U.S. foreign aid to countries across the globe including Ukraine. It doesn’t specify that U.S. aid to Ukraine was directed toward the pension funds of Ukrainians, but says the money was directed to broader categories like “government and civil society” or “business and other services” or “basic health.”