What US election results mean for the future of Ukraine aid

WASHINGTON (AP) – If Republicans win the House, where will that leave Ukraine?

It’s a question top of mind in Washington as the GOP moves closer to winning a majority in the U.S. House. Some fear that the end of Democratic control of Congress – and the takeover of “America First” conservatives – could lead to a reduction in US aid as Ukraine battles Russian invasion.

Recent comments from Kevin McCarthy, who is in line to speak if Republicans win the House, added to those fears. He warned that Republicans would not support writing a “blank check” for Ukraine if they captured the majority.

But tough rhetoric is not the end of the story. While Republican control of the House is likely to make it more difficult to send tranches of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, support for the country runs deep in both parties.

Here’s a look at the factors at play:

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WHAT THE USA HAS GIVEN SO FAR

Since the Russian invasion began in February, Congress has approved tens of billions in emergency security and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. The Biden administration has also sent billions in weapons and equipment from military inventories.

In September, lawmakers approved about $12.3 billion in Ukraine-related aid as part of a bill that funds the federal government through Dec. 16. The money included assistance for the Ukrainian military, as well as money to help the country’s government provide basic services to its country. citizens.

This is in addition to the more than $50 billion provided in two previous bills.

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STRONG BIPARTIAL SUPPORT

Over time, financial support for Ukraine has garnered strong bipartisan support. In the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the powerful Appropriations Committee, were early and consistent voices in favor of Ukraine aid.

In recent days, other Republicans, including Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rick Scott of Florida, have insisted in interviews that their party’s support for the Ukrainians is firm.

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“I think we need to continue to do everything we can to support Ukraine, which wants to defend its freedom and prevent Russia from continuing to expand,” Scott said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware also made a bipartisan show of support by visiting Ukraine just days before the election.

“I am confident that the robust bipartisan American support for the struggle of the Ukrainian people will continue in Congress,” Coons said. “America has long been a nation that fights for freedom, and this is the most important freedom fight in the world today.”

The picture is similar in the House, where Ukrainian aid enjoys majority support. Even a letter released last month by the party’s liberal wing, calling on the Biden administration to hold diplomatic talks with Russia about the war, was quickly retracted after an outpouring of criticism from both sides.

President Joe Biden also sought to ease concerns at a post-election briefing on Wednesday, expressing hope that he could continue his “bipartisan approach” to support Ukraine. He said he intends to invite congressional leaders from both parties to the White House later this month for a discussion on how to “advance America’s economic and national security priorities.”

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GROWING FAR FAR OPPOSITION

However, support for Ukraine is far from universal in the Republican Party.

Some right-wing lawmakers, particularly those aligned with Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy philosophy, say the U.S. cannot afford to give billions to Ukraine at a time of record inflation at home his

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a member of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, told a rally of Trump supporters in Iowa last week that “under the Republicans, not one more penny will go to Ukraine.” In Ohio, Republican JD Vance, who just won the state Senate race, campaigned to end financial support for the country, saying that Congress “must stop the drain on Ukraine eventually “.

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McCarthy appeared to be taking a swipe at Ukraine skeptics with his comments before the election.

“I think people will sit in a recession and not write a blank check to Ukraine,” McCarthy said in the pre-election interview. “They just won’t do it. … It’s not a free blank check.”

McCarthy later retracted those comments, telling CNN that he was very supportive of Ukraine, but thinks there should be “accountability going forward.”

Biden stressed that his administration has not met all of the Ukrainians’ requests, including their demand for a no-fly zone that would risk taking the United States to war.

“We have not given Ukraine a blank check,” Biden said. “There are a lot of things that Ukraine wants that we didn’t do, we didn’t do.”

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FUTURE OF AID

Despite escalating right-wing opposition, there is little risk that Congress will end U.S. financial and military support for Ukraine anytime soon.

Majorities in the House and Senate support the alliance with Ukraine, saying the cost is worth paying to defend a democratic ally and resist Russian expansion.

And a majority of Americans who voted in the midterms were strongly behind military and financial support for Ukraine, according to AP VoteCast, a national poll of more than 94,000 voters. About 4 in 10 said it was about right and 3 in 10 said it should be more active, while only about 3 in 10 wanted the US to contribute less to Ukraine.

However, it is clear that a Republican takeover of the House would make it more difficult to pass additional aid to Ukraine. McCarthy is likely to be under intense pressure from the right to take a hard line with the Biden administration, making it harder for him to work with Democrats.

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Given that reality, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are viewing the post-election lame-duck session as an opportunity to block billions of dollars in additional military assistance for Ukraine. That aid could be passed in a year-end government funding bill and ensure American support for months to come.

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VIEW FROM THE OUTSIDE

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials are closely monitoring the results of the midterm elections. On Wednesday, one official admitted to staying up the night before, clicking Refresh over and over on his phone to track the results.

But the country’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said Wednesday that he did not foresee American support eroding.

“I have met repeatedly with representatives of the Senate and Congress, and each time the delegations were bipartisan,” Resnikov said at a news conference. “It is my clear understanding that the support of the United States will also remain bipartisan and bicameral.”

Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine’s minister of economic development and trade, said Thursday that regardless of U.S. support, the country is stepping up efforts to cut spending, even as Ukrainians fight what they see as a “war existential”.

Svyrydenko said that while there had been no pressure from US officials for Ukraine to reduce its need for foreign aid, Ukrainian leaders know they must do more to stabilize the economy even as they struggle against Russian forces.

Ukraine’s emphasis since the beginning of the war had been to quickly call for military help from its allies, “but we understand that one day we will have to rely very much on ourselves again,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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