The fate of continued American aid to Ukraine is in doubt, and appears ambiguous after an agreement reached at the last minute to avoid a government shutdown in Washington, despite President Joe Biden’s efforts to reassure Kiev that it will get what it needs to confront Russia.
Less than a week after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington to appeal for more funding, a settlement reached in Congress late Sunday canceled any new funding allocated to Ukraine in response to the demands of hardline Republicans.
Biden and his Democratic Party stress that the United States is obligated to help Ukraine confront the Russian invasion, warning that failure to do so could strengthen authoritarian leaders such as President Vladimir Putin in the future.
However, the issue has become so politicized in Washington that the fate of much-needed military aid is at stake as Kiev tries to make progress in its slow counterattack before winter arrives.
Biden urged House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Sunday to stop maneuvering and stressed that he fully expects him to ensure the passage of a separate bill soon regarding funding for Ukraine.
“I want to reassure our allies, the American people, and the Ukrainian people that you can count on our support… We will not abandon you,” Biden said in a speech from the White House.
In turn, Ukraine downplayed the importance of the setback, saying on Sunday that it was working actively with our American partners to ensure access to new aid.
As for the European Union’s foreign affairs official, Josep Borrell, he confirmed that the bloc, which is Washington’s main partner in delivering aid to Ukraine, was surprised by the agreement concluded at the last moments, indicating that he felt deep regret for the US decision.
“I have hope that this decision won’t be final and Ukraine will continue to have the support of the United States,” he said.
In this context, analyst Brett Bruen warned of the negative impact of the broader message to the world that Republicans, and even some Democrats, are willing to sacrifice Ukraine for the sake of politics.
“This will worry leaders in Kiev and I think they are celebrating in Moscow the signs that our support may be declining,” added the analyst, a former diplomat who is currently president of the Global Situation Room consultancy.
Ukraine is watching with concern the possibility of former Republican President Donald Trump, who previously praised Putin, returning to the White House.
The most prominent Democrats in the House of Representatives confirmed on Saturday that they expect McCarthy to put a separate bill on aid to Ukraine to a vote next week, but it is still unclear whether the amount is $24 billion, which is the number that Biden initially sought, however achieving this won’t be easy.
Ukraine’s struggle for survival has turned into an issue that has become subject to political tensions more than a year before the US presidential elections, while increasing questions are being raised about the aid approved by Congress, which has totaled $100 billion so far, and includes weapons worth $43 billion.
House speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing an effort to be ousted by Matt Gates, who is considered a hard-right member of the Republican Party, who completely refuses to provide any additional aid to Ukraine.
If he survives the vote, McCarthy has made clear that he will focus on allocating enough funding to prevent migrants from crossing the Mexican border, which is a major Republican demand.
“I will make sure the weapons are provided to Ukraine, but they won’t get a big package unless the border is secured,” McCarthy told CBS on Sunday.
Even if McCarthy agrees to aid to Ukraine, likely through a deal with Democrats that allows him to remain speaker, there is a broader problem of war fatigue.
Discontent is spreading from hardline Republicans to more moderate lawmakers who say they won’t issue Ukraine an open check.
Perhaps what is more troubling for Biden and Kiev is that similar concerns about Ukraine affect US voters who are suffering from the repercussions of inflation.
An ABC/Washington Post poll published on September 24 showed that 41% of respondents said the United States was doing a lot to support Ukraine, compared to 33% in February and only 14% in April 2022.
The Republican investigation aimed at impeaching Biden over his son Hunter’s business dealings with Ukraine further complicates the issue.
But the Biden administration simply responds that unless Russia is stopped in Ukraine, it could pose a danger to the rest of the world.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urged Congress to fulfill America’s commitment to urgently provide the necessary assistance to the Ukrainian people as they struggle to defend their country against the “forces of tyranny”.