Ukraine Aid Remains in Limbo as Congress Nears Recess

Ukraine Aid Remains in Limbo as Congress Nears Recess – As Congress gets ready to recess for the holidays, it’s uncertain whether a new aid package for Ukraine will be approved before lawmakers depart Washington. This uncertainty raises concerns among experts about Ukraine’s armed forces sustaining resistance against Russia’s invasion. 

Despite the U.S. allocating over $100 billion for Ukraine’s support since the February 2022 invasion, President Joe Biden’s request for an additional $60 billion faces growing skepticism from Republicans in Congress regarding the ongoing financial backing for Ukraine’s defense. Recently, Senate Republicans have tied their support for extra funding to Ukraine with the parallel reinforcement of immigration rules. 

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Targeting a decrease in entries at the U.S. southern border and the expulsion of certain individuals already in the country. The current emphasis is on Senate negotiations, where a small bipartisan group of lawmakers, alongside representatives from the Biden administration, is working to craft an agreement that can secure sufficient support from both sides and navigate through the various legislative challenges in the Senate.

The uncertainty of whether an agreement approved by the Senate would endure in the House of Representatives, where Republicans have a slim majority, remains unanswered. A notable faction of Republican House members opposes further assistance to Ukraine, and the party recently removed a House speaker who collaborated with Democrats on legislative matters.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, succeeding the ousted Kevin McCarthy, has emphasized the importance of additional funding for the border in any Ukrainian aid package. However, he also advocates for additional conditions to be imposed on the aid. “What the Biden administration seems to be asking for is billions of additional dollars with no appropriate oversight, no clear strategy to win, and none of the answers that I think the American people are owed,” he said this week.

Concerns regarding ongoing U.S. financial support for Ukraine heightened on Friday following the closure of another crucial support channel. The European Union’s proposed $52 billion aid package faced a setback as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wielded his veto to thwart the plan. Orbán’s decision to cast his vote occurred merely a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin openly rejoiced over indications that Ukraine seems to be losing backing from Western nations.

“Ukraine today produces nearly nothing, they are trying to preserve something, but they don’t produce practically anything themselves and bring everything in for free,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “But the freebies may end at some point and apparently it’s coming to an end little by little.” Critics of providing aid to Ukraine frequently criticize the assistance as a “blank check” bestowed upon the Ukrainian government; however, the majority of the aid comprises military hardware. 

The financial figures in these aid packages predominantly denote funds expended in the U.S. to compensate arms manufacturers for the equipment subsequently shipped to Ukraine. Although there is minimal doubt that a substantial delay in additional U.S. funding would negatively affect Ukraine on the battlefield, experts hold varying opinions on when the repercussions would start to manifest.

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“My current understanding is that there’s sufficient money remaining in the presidential drawdown authority for the Biden administration to continue sending arms to Ukraine for several more weeks, so into January,” said Nicholas Lokker, a research associate in the Center for a New American Security’s Transatlantic Security Program. “Once you start getting into January, the money is going to start running out.”

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Lokker highlighted that Ukraine is currently facing shortages of artillery shells and air defense munitions, and a cessation or notable delay in U.S. aid would worsen these deficiencies. According to Gian Gentile, a retired U.S. Army colonel and senior historian at the RAND Corporation, he believes a delay in U.S. funding might take a few months to manifest on the battlefield. Nonetheless, Gentile emphasized that a substantial delay or reduction in U.S. support could significantly impact the dynamics of the war. 

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