Will Congress listen to Zelensky’s warning?

7 mins read

Ukraine’s leader Zelensky said that if American aid does not arrive, they will be forced to withdraw and the Russians could advance into the country’s major cities. It is unfortunate for Zelenski that American support for Ukraine has become a domestic political issue in the last year. On the other hand, the Biden administration has failed to explain how this support serves the direct interests of the American people. It must be said that the populist rhetoric of Trumpist politics, such as why we are spending billions of dollars on Ukraine‘s border when we cannot protect our own border, has more impact. It is clear that Biden, who claims that America has returned to world leadership, has failed to convince the public of the financial burden of this leadership. The politicization of aid to Ukraine and the fact that it does not fit with Trump’s political calculations, despite being a bipartisan issue, makes the fate of the aid uncertain.


The fate of the $118 billion aid package requested by the Biden administration from Congress, which was passed by the Senate but stalled in the House of Representatives, is still unknown. The package, which the White House requested about six months ago, is currently on hold as it has not come to a vote in the House of Representatives. The administration, which succeeded in combining aid to Ukraine with aid to Israel and getting it through the Senate, has failed to exert effective pressure on the House of Representatives. Trump, who controls the Republican Party, blocked the aid in exchange for Biden’s concessions on border security and immigration. Trump, who wanted to use the border issue in the presidential election, frustrated Biden’s efforts to help Ukraine and blocked aid to Israel.

The aid package for Israel suffered the same fate as the aid to Ukraine. Previously, a $14.5 billion aid package for Israel passed the House of Representatives but failed to pass the Senate due to Democratic opposition. House Leader Mike Johnson tried to separate the Israel package from the Ukraine aid and send $17.6 billion in aid, but this too ran into bipartisan opposition. Democrats objected to making border security part of the bargain, while conservative Republicans objected that it was unclear where the money would come from. The failure of the aid to Israel to pass the House of Representatives was a rare occurrence in the history of the $300 billion in aid to the country since its creation.

Under pressure from the Trumpist conservative wing of his own party to compromise with the Democrats, Mike Johnson said he would be open to discussing an aid package for Ukraine after the Easter recess. Politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has been raising an internal party flag against him for his willingness to compromise with Democrats, are already arguing for a new Speaker to replace Johnson. Johnson, threatened with the fate of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is unlikely to break Trump’s promise. In this case, although he says he is open to negotiating Ukraine aid, he already seems to have adopted Trump’s words that aid should be a loan rather than a grant. It is politically very difficult for Biden to accept such a formula, as it would be perceived as a victory for Trump.

Ukraine aid is also likely to be tied to concessions from the Biden administration on border security. The Democrats may be able to accept such large concessions in the context of the comprehensive $118 billion package passed by the Senate, but they will be reluctant to make such concessions in the context of a smaller, Republican-only package. Johnson may ask Biden to increase America’s natural gas production to reduce Russia’s profits from this market and make it harder for it to finance the war, and Biden seems open to the idea. It is also rumored that the seizure of Russian assets in the US, amounting to between 5 and 8 billion dollars, is also a subject of negotiations. In order for the seizure of these assets to be effective, it would have to be coordinated with Europe, otherwise America could be isolated. Moreover, depending on Russia’s reaction, there is a risk that such a step could be seen as a step that would undermine the ‘rules-based international order’ advocated by Biden.

It appears that the Republicans will insist on tying aid to Ukraine and Israel to domestic political conditions, and that the Biden administration is necessarily open to such a bargain. Given these balances, it will not be easy to reach a compromise on Ukraine aid. Aware of this situation, Zelenski’s warnings to the US are unlikely to convince Congress unless Biden makes critical concessions. Even if Biden makes concessions, there may be no deal. Zelenski himself toured Washington and personally asked for Congressional support, but he could not remove the issue of Ukrainian aid from domestic political dynamics. The fact that even aid to Israel failed to pass despite bipartisan support makes the future of Ukraine aid, which faces Trumpist opposition, even more difficult.

Translated from Turkish Source: Kadir Üstün


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