Ukraine aid in danger: Where US Republicans face elections a year ago

Ukraine aid in danger: Where US Republicans face elections a year ago

Just a year ago, support for Ukraine was one of the few things that Democrats and Republicans in the US could agree on. Now it is over. As the election campaign becomes more heated, skepticism is growing among the conservatives.

All eyes were on Volodymyr Zelensky this Tuesday. The Ukrainian President’s speech at the 78th General Debate of the UN General Assembly was eagerly awaited by the world’s powerful. He had 15 minutes to convince the heads of state and government present that international support for his war-torn country must not be allowed to abate. And he used it. “Evil cannot be trusted,” warned Zelensky, referring to Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. “Ask Prigozhin.”

Zelensky is particularly addressing the Americans. He knows that the support of his strongest partner will be on the ballot in the coming presidential elections. Just a year ago, support for Ukraine was one of the few issues on which Democrats and Republicans could agree. But the longer the war lasts, the more expensive financial aid becomes a hot topic in the election campaign.

Reason enough for Zelensky to travel to Washington on Thursday and speak to the conscience of the politicians on Capitol Hill.

Republicans in Congress divided over Ukraine aid

The general debate comes at a critical time for Ukraine. So far, the army has had difficulty gaining ground in its counteroffensive. In order to remain capable of fighting, it is therefore dependent on a constant supply of weapons and equipment. Last year, the US Congress approved $113 billion in total aid for Ukraine, of which around $47 billion went directly to military support. However, this pot of money is quickly running out.

A first stress test for support for Ukraine is now being announced in Congress – and thus also for the future role of the USA in the conflict. The Senate, in which US President Joe Biden’s Democrats hold a slim majority, is planning a new 24 billion aid package for Kiev. This should be incorporated into a resolution that would extend the deadline for the major controversial issue of the budget. A corresponding vote in the House of Representatives could take place in the coming days.

But it is precisely there – in the Republican-led chamber of Congress – that most of the skeptics sit. While a minority of ultra-right lawmakers have long opposed more funding for Ukraine, increasingly moderate Republicans are also voicing concerns. “It’s not just the Freedom Caucus. I think there are a lot of people who are concerned about funding,” moderate conservative Rep. Lisa McClain told The Hill.

This is also confirmed by a report published on Monday by the conservative group “”, which evaluates the Republicans with regard to their stance on aid to Ukraine. The analysis reveals a deeply divided faction: of the 222 members, almost as many failed (72) as those who received the top grade (82). “I think this would have shocked me ten years ago,” Gunner Ramer, a spokesman for Republicans for Ukraine, told the Washington Post. “But today it no longer shocks me because this isolationist Republican Party led by Donald Trump no longer stands for what it once stood for.”

Trump is pushing presidential candidates ahead of him on the Ukraine issue

The opposing positions in the current field of presidential candidates show how deep the division over Ukraine has become within the “Grand Old Party”. On one side are the traditional Republicans who believe that the United States must play an important role in world affairs. Former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie each paid a visit to Ukraine to demonstrate their support to the government in Kiev. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is also one of the supporters of the thesis “a victory for Ukraine is a victory for all of us.”

On the other hand, an anti-intervention wing is growing that sees interference in an international conflict as a distraction from more important issues at home. Of particular importance here is former President Donald Trump, who is well on his way to running as the Republican candidate against Biden next year. He believes that the war in Ukraine “must be ended,” but that the fight is “much more important for Europe than for the United States.” At his campaign rallies, he boasts that he will end the Russian attack within “24 hours” if he becomes president again.

Even Trump’s biggest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, does not see the war in Europe as a vital interest of the USA. However, after receiving a lot of criticism for his “territorial dispute” comment, he backtracked. Most recently, DeSantis announced that he would make additional US aid dependent on whether European allies increase their contributions. Political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy, who is rising in the polls, takes a tougher position: He rejects military aid entirely and described it as “catastrophic” that the US government is “protecting the border of another country” while the resources are better for “protection should be issued before the invasion of one’s own southern border.

US elections in 2024 will set the tone for Ukraine aid

A look at the surveys shows that a growing majority of Americans are generally more skeptical about new aid for Ukraine. The most recent one in August showed that a narrow majority (55 percent to 45 percent) rejected further financial aid, with the division clearly running along party lines. Around 71 percent of the Republicans surveyed said that the USA should not provide any additional funds, while 62 percent of the Democrats were in favor of further aid. A Fox News poll in late August painted a similar picture, while a Reagan Institute poll found stronger support for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in his own speech at the general debate, President Biden insisted that the United States remains firmly with Ukraine. “The world must confront naked aggression today to deter other potential aggressors of tomorrow,” Biden said Tuesday. “If we allow Ukraine to be dismembered, will the independence of any nation be secure? The answer is no.” Throughout his term in office, the 80-year-old Democrat had reaffirmed U.S. leadership in global affairs and repaired many of the relationships that had suffered under his predecessor’s “America First” approach. But given the upcoming elections and the fact that Biden and Trump are tied in the early polls, his appeal for perseverance is likely to be greeted with frowns in New York.

Political observers in Washington do not consider the handling of the Ukraine war to be as important to voters as the economy, health care or the controversial issue of immigration. “At the moment, Ukraine is not such an important issue for voters,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Pennsylvania, in an interview with the AP news agency. “But we see that Trump, Ramaswamy and DeSantis are paving the way to ask later in the election campaign how much US money we spend there that we could spend at home.”

For Biden’s own political future, a lot will depend on how the war develops in the coming weeks and months. Depending on how well Ukraine’s counteroffensive progresses on the battlefield, it could strengthen – or weaken – its argument about its government’s success as a leading nation on the international stage.

Sources: “”, “”, “”, “”, “”, “”, “”, with material from the AP and DPA news agencies

Note: This article was updated following Zelensky’s speech.

Source: Stern

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