U.S. Congress revives World War Two-era "Lend-Lease" program for Ukraine

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FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian army holds drills in Ukraine

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly backed legislation on Thursday that will make it easier to export military equipment to Ukraine, reviving the "Lend-Lease Act" that helped defeat Hitler during World War Two.

The House passed the "Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022" by 417 to 10, three weeks after it sailed through the Senate with unanimous support. It next goes to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.

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The measure revives a World War Two-era program that allowed Washington to lend or lease military equipment to U.S. allies. In this case, it will help those affected by Russia's invasion, such as Poland and other eastern European countries as well as Ukraine.

Two months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, members of Congress hoped the act would work as it did eight decades ago by allowing U.S. companies to quickly resupply partner nations without having to clear bureaucratic hurdles.

"Today the Ukrainian people are standing on the front lines in the fight for democracy and against tyranny, and the U.S. needs to provide them with every possible measure of humanitarian and military aid," Democratic Representative Mary Gay Scanlon said, urging support for the bill.

Among other provisions, the bill would allow the United States to provide equipment to Ukraine now, with just a technical requirement to pay at some later date, essentially giving it to the Kyiv government.

"Ukrainian forces have demonstrated unbelievable strength and bravery, and we must again serve as the arsenal of democracy and ensure they have the full range of resources necessary to defend their sovereignty," said Republican Senator John Cornyn, a lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, in a statement.

The House passed the legislation the same day that Biden asked Congress to approve $33 billion more for Ukraine, including more than $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military assistance.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Berkrot)