US midterms could ‘negatively impact’ Ukraine if Republicans limit aid: experts – National
In the early months of the Russian war in Ukraine, Victor Tregubov said it was nearly impossible for Ukrainian fighters like himself to counter the Russian blitzkriegs that destroyed cities like Mariupol and killed thousands of civilians.
Then American military aid began to arrive.
The equipment included long-range multiple rocket launchers which immediately improved Ukraine’s ability to hit munitions depots, bridges and other key targets. Suddenly, Tregubov said, Ukraine had what it needed to finally put Russia on the defensive.
“It was kind of a game-changer,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces captain told Global News from Berdychiv, about 150 km west of Kyiv, where he is based after spending months on the front lines. in the east of the country.
« All the equipment we received from the Americans…literally saved us during specific phases of this conflict. »
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Since the start of the war on February 24, the United States has committed more than $17.5 billion in weapons and other equipment, far more than any other western country. By comparison, Canada provided about $650 million in military aid.
Lawmakers also approved more than $50 billion in additional aid that helped the Ukrainian government provide basic services to its citizens, as well as humanitarian aid.
But the future of this aid pipeline is being challenged by the upcoming US midterm elections, which could see Republicans take control of the House of Representatives and even the Senate.
Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl News earlier this month that his party would not write a « blank cheque » to Ukraine amid rising inflation and other domestic issues, which Republicans say they want to prioritize.
Although CNN later reported that McCarthy was reassuring his party’s national security leaders that his comment had been taken out of context – insisting he simply wanted more control over the aid – other lawmakers Republicans have expressed support for redirecting Ukraine’s money to the home front.
« We can’t be the leader in the world when we have such big problems to solve in America, » Rep. Jim Banks told Fox News. Banks was one of nearly 60 House Republicans who opposed a US$40 billion aid package for Ukraine in May.
Requests for comment were not returned by McCarthy’s office.
Republican support for helping Ukraine in the Senate appears stronger, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently calling for even faster help.
But cracks still exist and could potentially grow: 11 Republican senators also opposed May’s aid package, and prominent freshman candidates echoed McCarthy’s comments.
“We need to stop the money tap into Ukraine,” Ohio candidate JD Vance said in a September interview. « We cannot fund a long-term military conflict which I think ultimately has diminishing returns for our own country. »
This interview marked a softening of Vance’s stance before the war started, when he told a podcast that he « didn’t really care what happened to Ukraine one way or the other. » another one « .
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If Vance and other like-minded candidates win their races, McConnell could find it harder to garner automatic support for additional Ukrainian aid — even if Republicans regain control of the Senate.
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Experts do not believe that US aid to Ukraine will be cut entirely if Republicans win power in Congress. But they agree that even a reduction or slowdown in funding and equipment would be detrimental to the war effort.
« It would have a very negative impact…because then European nations and even Canada would have to step up and provide even more (to fill that void), » said Andres Kasekamp, a political science professor at the University of Toronto who studies NATO.
He added that the rest of NATO « would try to pick up the slack, but they could never catch up entirely, or even almost entirely. »
A recent analysis by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy found that US aid eclipsed European aid by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1. Yet it also found that aid accounted for a relatively small share of US GDP – less than 0.5%. Poland, by comparison, has earmarked nearly 1.5% of its GDP for Ukraine.
Despite the minimal economic impact, the argument of more nationalist Republicans seems to be winning over voters.
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The Pew Research Center found last month that the number of Americans who say « too much » US aid is flowing to Ukraine rose from 7% in March to 20% in September. Among certain and likely Republican voters, the number was much higher at 32%, up from 9% at the start of the invasion.
Kasekamp says lawmakers are fueling this growing discontent instead of rallying citizens to continue supporting Ukraine, which is playing into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hands.
« The Russians are losing on the battlefield right now, so they are focusing their energies on trying to deprive the Ukrainians of Western military support, » he said. « They’re helping to pivot the conversation to inflation and gas prices, and Republicans are listening to that.
« From the Russian point of view, it’s a perfectly sensible and inexpensive strategy to try to break up this Western solidarity…and they’ve been pursuing it since before the war started. »
As if to underscore the point, Kremlin-backed media pundits have spent the past several weeks actively encouraging nationalist Republicans to win midterms, echoing the same talking points about limiting military aid.
The campaign was further fueled when progressive Democrats sent President Joe Biden a letter calling for a more diplomatic approach to ending the war. The letter was quickly taken down, with lawmakers saying it was written months ago and they never supported aid cuts.
Experts have repeatedly warned against resorting to diplomacy as Putin has shown no willingness to give up on his goals in Ukraine.
« You can’t negotiate with a bully, » University of Toronto political scientist Aurel Braun told Global News in a previous interview.
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Any apparent wavering in solidarity threatens to undermine the Western alliance, where Biden has positioned himself as a leader to rally support for the greater cause.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also underlined the importance of this alliance during a Politico podcast on October 28, when asked about the rise of skeptical Ukrainian Republicans, saying it was crucial to ensure that Putin does not win the war.
“I am confident that after the midterm elections there will still be a clear majority in Congress – in the House and in the Senate – for strong and continued support for Ukraine,” he said.
A NATO spokesperson highlighted the comments when asked by Global News whether the alliance had contingency plans to maintain current aid levels if the United States cuts or cuts funding.
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Kasekamp says Democrats may try to push through another major aid package before early January, when the next Congress takes over, to ensure Ukraine has what it needs.
Ukrainian leaders, for their part, are showing courage in the face of Republican threats. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Axios that while he is « concerned » by statements by McCarthy and others, he is confident the rhetoric will die down after the election.
« I think we will address this and I am sure that we will manage these risks effectively and that aid to Ukraine will not be cut off, » he said.
Tregubov, the captain of the Ukrainian armed forces, also remains hopeful that the United States will do the right thing.
« America can only be great by being a beacon to other countries, » he said. « So if America wants to restore all of its glory, it should be as the most serious international peacekeeper. »