U.S. aid for Ukraine dried up at the end of last year

11:30 09.02.2024 •

Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky can’t stop asking for US money while Joe Biden leaves after a press conference at the White House on Dec. 12.
Photo: AFP

After the breakout of the Israel-Hamas war in October, Biden asked Congress for a $106 billion package to support Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific and to reform the border. The idea was to tie Ukraine aid to the border, a GOP priority, in a bid to win over skeptical Republicans. A common complaint from critical lawmakers is that the U.S. should secure its own borders before trying to protect another country like Ukraine, writes The Hill

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and an ardent supporter of Ukraine, said he was concerned about Ukraine aid but hopes “cooler heads prevail and realize we have to take care of our national strategic interest.”

After months of crafting a compromise bill, the Senate legislation to fund those priorities included $118 billion — $60 billion of which would go to Ukraine.

Senate Republicans — and a few Democrats — killed the legislation on the floor Tuesday.

Now, without a border tie-in, Ukraine aid will return to face a growing number of Republicans who are asking serious questions about support for Ukraine.

Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) said he had key questions, including the length of the commitment to Ukraine and the strategy to win back all of Ukraine’s territory from Russia, which holds about 18 percent of the eastern region of Ukraine.

“We’ve asked [the administration] behind closed doors [and] still can’t get a straight answer,” he told The Hill. “’Blank check and we’ll figure it out’ is not sustainable or sufficient.”

Other Republicans want Europe to do more for Ukraine. The European Union has supplied more than $6 billion in U.S. dollars for security assistance to Kyiv since the war began, and allies have delivered billions each separately. 

Rep. Keith Self (R-Texas) pointed approvingly to Germany’s plan to double its commitment to Ukraine. The German Parliament passed a defense budget with more than $8 billion in U.S. dollars for Ukraine last week.

“Absolutely not,” he said when asked whether the U.S. should get more aid to Ukraine. “I want Germany to step up. I want Germany to do what they promised to do.”

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, said funding Ukraine was also endangering U.S. national security.

“Endless wars deplete our strength rather than build it,” Davidson told Fox Business.  

Johnson has also asked the White House questions about Ukraine support and claims the Biden administration has refused to answer his inquiries.

But the House Freedom Caucus is set on blocking Ukraine efforts, and the coalition of skeptical Republicans has grown, with more than 100 Republicans voting against Ukrainian aid in September.  

Despite growing resistance, Republican leaders including Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the

Congress has not passed a Ukraine aid bill since the end of 2022, when a Democratic majority passed the last of four packages for Kyiv. 

The roughly $113 billion in total Ukraine aid, some $44 billion of which was for security needs, ran out at the end of December, which forced the Pentagon to sound the alarm.

“We have no more money, we have no more authority to continue to give [money] to Ukraine,” said Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh on Tuesday.

US weapons for Kyiv.
Photo: US Air Force

Even if the Senate manages to advance military aid to Ukraine, there are still plenty of reasons to doubt that the money will come through, including deep opposition among Republicans in the House and former President Donald J. Trump’s push for a more isolationist stance, notes ‘The New York Times’.

President Biden’s aides insist they are not yet scrambling for other options.

“We’re not focused on Plan B,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said in Brussels on Wednesday after a NATO meeting with his counterparts. “We’re focused on plan A,” which he said meant passing a bipartisan aid package that will enable Ukraine to “defend effectively.”

Oddly enough, Congress’s threat to derail the aid comes just at the moment that Europe committed $54 billion for rebuilding the country over the next four years, and countries from Norway to Germany are committing new arms aid. “It is remarkable how quickly Europe has moved toward a new and substantive multiyear support program for Ukraine,” said Christoph Trebesch, who directs the production of the Ukraine Support Tracker at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in northern Germany. “For the first time, the U.S. is now lagging behind by a large margin” compared with European aid, he said.

 “This is not charity; it is in our own security interest,” Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, said at the alliance’s headquarters, appearing at a news conference with Mr. Sullivan. A Russian victory, he added, “matters for European security and it matters for American security.”

But this argument, that the West must push back on Russia in Ukraine or face the possibility of fighting it on NATO territory, seems to be losing its effectiveness in Congress. And some Republican members of Congress are still accusing Europe of not pulling its weight, even if the newest financial commitments change the equation.

But none of these arguments, officials in the U.S. and Europe say, can overcome the reality: If the United States pulls the plug on its financial support for the war, much of the day-to-day military necessities will go away — starting with air defense against the near-daily barrages of missiles, drones and other weaponry aimed at urban centers and critical infrastructure like the electric grid. And if the country’s economy collapses, it will terminate a two-year-long effort to save a fledgling if deeply flawed democracy.

The Republicans opposing the aid don’t argue directly with that logic, though many insist that pouring billions into a country with a deep history of corruption invites misuse. Instead, their primary argument is that the money should be spent at home, on the southern border rather than Ukraine’s borderlands with Russia. The most outspoken of the opponents, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, contend that Ukraine aid “puts America last.”

Now the opposition has so taken hold that even the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has declared time and again that funding the war in Ukraine was one of his top priorities, seemed to be backpedaling.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden’s aides are trying to figure out how to pay for weapons if Congress remains paralyzed. The plan to seize Russian assets has complications. It’s not clear that the reserves could be used to pay for air defense and artillery. Even that, administration officials say, could require congressional action — though presumably there are more votes in the House and Senate for spending Russia’s money than spending the United States’.

But Europe clearly doesn’t have the capacity to provide much more ammunition by itself. During the 30 years of increasingly uneasy peace with Russia, Europe dismantled much of its production capability. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said in a recent speech that “we will have delivered over half a million rounds of artillery shells by next month” and “more than one million by the end of the year,” but she acknowledged that “this is certainly not enough.”

“What will be the effect of reductions in military aid?” – Center for Strategic and International Studies puts a question and then answers:

“Reductions in military aid will cause the Ukrainian military to gradually lose combat power. Already, Ukraine has lost the ability to conduct counteroffensives. By early spring, even local counterattacks will be difficult. Ukrainian cities will suffer more destruction as air defenses weaken and more Russian missiles get through. By early summer, Ukraine will be hard-pressed to hold back Russian attacks. Eventually, its front will crack, and the Russians will make major territorial gains. Complete collapse might follow.

“However, Ukrainian leaders won't wait for military catastrophe. They will understand where the war is headed and make a deal with Russia.”


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