© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during her interview with Reuters in New Delhi, India, November 11, 2022. REUTERS/Altaf Hussain
By David Lawder and Aftab Ahmed
BENGALURU (Reuters) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stepped up calls on Thursday for increased financing support to Ukraine to help it battle the year-old Russian invasion as the United States readies an additional $10 billion in economic assistance.
Yellen, speaking at a news conference in India on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, said it was critical for the International Monetary Fund to “move swiftly” towards a fully financed loan programme for Ukraine.
“As President Biden has said, we will stand with Ukraine in its fight – for as long as it takes,” she said. “Continued, robust support for Ukraine will be a major topic of discussion during my time here in India.”
Yellen is to join other finance ministers and heads of central banks from the Group of 20 nations on Friday for a meeting at a resort near the tech hub of Bengaluru. It is the first major meeting of India’s year-long presidency of the bloc, which includes wealthy G7 democracies as well as Russia, China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
Ukraine is seeking a $15 billion multi-year IMF programme, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Monday after meeting IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva in Kyiv.
Yellen said that previous U.S. military, economic and humanitarian aid totalling $46 billion has allowed Ukraine to preserve economic and financial stability under “extraordinary circumstances.”
“Our economic assistance is making Ukraine’s resistance possible by supporting the home front: funding critical public services and helping keep the government running. In the coming months, we expect to provide around $10 billion in additional economic support for Ukraine.”
India, which has kept a neutral stance on the war, does not want additional sanctions against Russia to be discussed at the G20 meetings, government sources have told Reuters. India also was pressing participants to avoid using “war” in communique language to describe the conflict, G20 officials said.
But Yellen said the communique was still under discussion and that she would like to see a “strong condemnation” of Russia’s invasion and the damage it has caused to Ukraine and the global economy.
Nevertheless, she said the global economy “is in a better place today than many predicted just a few months ago,” with concerns fading that the Ukraine war’ spillovers would cause growth to slow sharply.
Yellen said while headline inflation was beginning to ease in the United States and across the globe, it was important for G20 finance officials to keep working to quell inflation, adding: “We are not out of the woods yet.”
She said G20 countries, especially China, need to work to restructure the debts of low- and middle income countries facing distress, especially the “most urgent” cases of Zambia and Sri Lanka
Yellen said talks between the United States and China on economic issues would resume at “an appropriate time”, but also warned Beijing that providing any material support to Russia’s war effort would be “a very serious concern”.
Some engagements between Washington and Beijing were suspended following the downing of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that floated over the continental United States, including previously planned visits to China by Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken unclear.
Yellen told reporters the United States will quickly nominate a candidate to lead the World Bank who is committed to reforms to boost bank lending for fighting climate change and other global challenges as well as to its traditional anti-poverty mission.
At the G20 meetings, she said she intends to push forward the proposed reforms aimed at stretching the bank’s balance sheet to finance energy transition projects and pandemic preparedness as well as to fight fragility.