- By Anthony Searcher
- North American Correspondent
The White House has issued a stark warning that Ukraine needs more U.S. aid, but Congress has yet to come close to a deal on a compromise spending package to fund the war effort.
In a publicly released letter to Republican and Democratic leaders, White House Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote, “We’re out of money — and almost out of time.”
He warned that a failure of Congress to approve more military aid to Ukraine by the end of the year would bring the nation to its “knees” in the fight against Russia, with no “magic pot of funding” to draw from.
On Monday, however, House Republican Speaker Mike Johnson appeared to reject recent calls for tens of thousands of dollars in funding.
“The Biden administration has failed to significantly address any of my conference’s legitimate concerns about the lack of a clear strategy in Ukraine, a path to resolving the conflict, or a plan that adequately ensures accountability for aid provided by the U.S. taxpayer,” he wrote. Social media.
Since the start of the war in February 2022, the US Congress has approved more than $110bn (£87bn) in military and economic aid to Ukraine. The Biden administration has warned for months, however, that much of that money has already been distributed.
According to Frederick Kagan, director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Program and a former professor at the US Military Academy, funding delays are already having real consequences on the Ukrainian battlefield. The current counteroffensive against Russia is being scaled back, and future moves to regain lost territory are in doubt.
“Ukrainians have to make a difficult choice here,” he said. “If they’re not confident they’re going to get anything else from America, they should protect what they have.”
What the Ukrainian military needs are tanks, armored personnel carriers, fighter jets, drones, and long-range weapons — and the United States is the only country that can deliver this hardware quickly and in the quantities that Ukraine will need in the coming year. .
Bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress remain in favor of more US aid to Ukraine, even if it falls short of the $61.4bn (£48.28bn) requested by the White House. However, turning that congressional support into legislation that the president can sign into law has proven to be a major challenge.
Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate are currently negotiating a further $106bn (£83.9bn) spending package, which includes aid to Ukraine, military support for Israel and Taiwan and increased funding for security along the US-Mexico border.
It was this last element of the package, however, that caused the most political heartburn. Democrats have blocked proposed immigration policy changes, including changing how asylum seekers are processed at the border and tightening requirements to enter the United States.
“In exchange for providing additional funding to Ukraine, we must make significant and substantial reforms to our border policy,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said in a televised interview on Sunday.
Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would bring the military aid bill to a vote in the House this week, but it’s unclear whether it will garner enough Republican support without a deal on immigration measures.
While Ukraine aid lifted the Senate ban, its outlook in the House of Representatives is equally bleak. Although Speaker Johnson has said he supports more funding for Ukraine, he was one of 117 Republicans who voted on Sept. 28 to block just $300 million in additional security aid for that country.
If he brings a massive Senate-backed aid package to a vote in the House, counting on Democratic support, he could sharply divide Republicans and threaten his own grip on power ahead of another round of tough budget negotiations early next year.
In a possible attempt to rally support from Congress, the White House is offering additional Ukrainian aid on economic and national security grounds. In a letter to Congress, Young indicated that the requested funds would be used to manufacture weapons in factories across the country.
“We will modernize key weapons and equipment such as javelins made in Alabama, multiple guided missile rocket systems made in West Virginia, Arkansas, and Texas…and cannonballs made in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Iowa, among other states,” he writes.
As an election year approaches, the White House hopes members of Congress are looking for ways to learn how their actions are helping local economies in their own districts.
As the conflict approaches its third year, Mr Kagan said it is not surprising that Ukraine funding has become the most contentious subject of political debate in the US.
“The American people need to have their representatives articulate exactly what America’s interests are, and have a real debate about what should be distributed after large sums of money,” he says.
Ultimately, though, he said, the stakes are clear.
“The outcome of this war will be determined primarily by what the Ukrainians can do, but a close second by what the United States chooses to do.”