President Biden, aiming to showcase his administration’s military assistance for Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion, traveled to Alabama on Tuesday to visit a plant that manufactures Javelin antitank missiles, which the United States is sending in increasing numbers to Ukraine.
“We know that the United States is leading our allies and partners and the world to make sure the Ukrainians who are fighting for the future of the nation have the weapons and the capacity, ammunition and equipment to defend themselves against Putin’s brutal war,” Mr. Biden said from the Pike County Operations plant in Troy, Ala. The plant makes many missiles for Lockheed Martin, including Javelins.
Mr. Biden also used the visit to frame the Russian invasion of Ukraine as part of an “ongoing battle between democracy and autocracy,” a phrase he has repeatedly used to describe his foreign policy strategy.
“You are making it possible for the Ukrainian people to defend themselves without us having to risk getting in a third World War by sending American soldiers to fight Russian soldiers,” Mr. Biden said. “You’re allowing the Ukrainians to defend themselves and quite frankly they’re making fools of the Russian military in many instances.”
But the president also used the visit to push Congress to pass legislation that would invest billions of dollars to address a shortage of semiconductors, which are needed to manufacture Javelins. The White House has transferred more than 5,000 Javelins to Ukraine, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said on Tuesday, and each uses more than 200 semiconductors.
“We are going to ensure the semiconductors that power the economy and our national security are made here in America again,” Mr. Biden said.
The administration’s transfer of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine is one of its more direct challenges to Russia. Mr. Biden has made clear he will not send American troops to Ukraine.
The United States has indicated in recent weeks that it is not just aiming to assist Ukraine, but also to see Russia so “weakened,” according to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, that it would not be able to commit a similar invasion in the future. With that shift in focus, the president has embraced military contractors — a move that has sparked some frustration among his own party after Mr. Biden’s once-sprawling domestic investments were slimmed during congressional negotiations.
In his budget request, Mr. Biden requested $813.3 billion in national security spending, an increase of $31 billion, or 4 percent, from his last budget request. The administration also recently asked Congress for $33 billion for more artillery, antitank weapons and other hardware as well as economic and humanitarian aid. That would triple total emergency expenditures and put the United States on track to spend as much this year helping Ukraine as it did on average each year fighting its own war in Afghanistan, or more.
Military analysts and some Republicans have expressed concern over whether the United States can continue to support Ukraine in the long term while also sustaining the stockpile of weapons necessary to respond to other conflicts around the world.
Noting that a third of the U.S. stockpile of Javelins had been sent to Ukraine, Senator Roy Blount, Republican of Missouri, asked Mr. Austin during a meeting of a Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee on Tuesday morning if the Pentagon was prepared to quickly replace the anti-tank missiles.
“It is not only possible, we will do that,” Mr. Austin said. “We will never go below our minimum requirement for our stockpile, so we will always maintain the capability to defend this country and support our interests,” he added.