The White House issued an urgent warning to Congress on Monday, predicting that Ukraine will soon lose ground in its war against Russia without another infusion of financial aid from the US.
“I want to be clear: without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from US military stocks,” Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in her letter to congressional leaders.
“There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money – and nearly out of time.”
In October, the White House asked Congress to approve a $106bn supplemental funding bill that would provide assistance to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific while also strengthening border security. However, bipartisan negotiations over that bill have now stalled.
Although previous funding packages for Ukraine have won widespread bipartisan support in Congress, the issue has become increasingly contentious in the Republican-controlled House.
Given hard-right Republicans’ entrenched opposition to additional Ukraine aid, the new Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, must walk a fine line in his negotiations with the Senate.
Here’s everything you need to know about the path forward for Ukraine aid:
How much additional aid has the White House requested?
The supplemental funding request that the White House outlined in October included roughly $60bn in additional aid for Ukraine. Although Congress has already appropriated more than $111bn to bolster Ukraine’s war efforts, Young warned in her letter to congressional leaders that resources are quickly running out.
According to Young, the defense department has already used 97% of the $62.3bn it received, while the state department has none of its $4.7bn remaining. Noting the global stakes of the war in Ukraine, Young stressed that Congress must act immediately to prevent disaster.
“This isn’t a next-year problem. The time to help a democratic Ukraine fight against Russian aggression is right now,” Young said. “It is time for Congress to act.”
Where do negotiations over the bill stand now?
Bipartisan negotiations to craft a supplemental aid package that can pass both chambers of Congress appeared to stall over the weekend. House Republicans have pushed to include harsher immigration policies in the bill, particularly on the issues of asylum and parole applications, but those proposals are a non-starter for many Democrats.
One of the lead Democratic negotiators in the talks, the senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, told Politico on Monday that hard-right Republicans wanted to “essentially close the border” in exchange for supporting more Ukraine funding.
“Right now, it seems pretty clear that we’re making pretty big compromises and concessions and Republicans aren’t willing to meet us anywhere close to the middle,” Murphy said.
Why do hard-right Republicans oppose additional aid?
As more members of the Republican party have embraced Donald Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy, more rightwing lawmakers have grown suspicious of providing funding to Ukraine.
They have argued the US should not be sending so much money to Ukraine when those funds could be better used to address border security, even though US assistance to Ukraine represents less than 1% of the nation’s GDP.
But many prominent Republicans, including the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, continue to support funding for Ukraine, and that division has caused a growing rift in the party.
The issue drew increased attention in October, when the hard-right congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida accused the then speaker Kevin McCarthy of cutting a “a secret side deal” with Joe Biden to provide additional funding to Ukraine. McCarthy rejected that characterization, but Gaetz’s charge underscored how the speaker’s support for Ukraine had become a wedge issue between him and the hard-right flank of his caucus.
McCarthy was then removed as speaker, after Gaetz and seven other House Republicans joined Democrats in supporting a motion to vacate the chair.
How has the new House speaker navigated the negotiations?
Although Johnson initially expressed support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February 2022, his stance has shifted. The group Republicans for Ukraine gave Johnson a grade of “F” on its congressional scorecard, noting that he has repeatedly voted against measures aimed at strengthening US support for Ukraine.
Last week, Johnson said he was “confident and optimistic” that Congress would approve aid for both Israel and Ukraine, but he has suggested the two priorities should not be linked in one bill. Responding to Young’s letter on Monday, Johnson reiterated his demand that any aid for Ukraine must be tied to stiffer border policies.
“The Biden administration has failed to substantively 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 for adequately ensuring accountability for aid provided by American taxpayers,” Johnson said on X, formerly Twitter.
“House Republicans have resolved that any national security supplemental package must begin with our own border. We believe both issues can be agreed upon if Senate Democrats and the White House will negotiate reasonably.”
Can Congress still pass another aid package before the end of the year?
That remains highly unclear, as the two parties currently appear far apart in their negotiations. But one of the lead Republican negotiators, the senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, voiced confidence on Monday that lawmakers would ultimately reach a consensus.
“We continue to work to find a solution that will protect our national security, stop the human trafficking, and prevent the cartels from exploiting the obvious loopholes in our law,” Lankford said on X. “That is the goal [and] we will continue to work until we get it right.”
What are the potential consequences if a deal fails?
In her letter, Young predicted that the loss of US financial support would “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield, not only putting at risk the gains Ukraine has made, but increasing the likelihood of Russian military victories”.
Such a scenario could cause the war to spill over into a broader regional conflict involving the United States’ other European allies, Young warned, and that perilous situation might endanger US troops abroad.
“I must stress that helping Ukraine defend itself and secure its future as a sovereign, democratic, independent and prosperous nation advances our national security interests,” Young said. “The path that Congress chooses will reverberate for many years to come.”
Source : The Guardian