The U.S. government has moved in a hurry to try to reassure its allies about providing aid to Ukraine, after Congress excluded new funding for that country in the law, approved this weekend, that ensures the payment of federal expenses for the next six weeks. On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden held a teleconference with the main partners in supporting Kiev to coordinate the next steps in the conflict, according to the White House.
Biden called the call, which was joined by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel; German Chancellor Olaf Scholz; the heads of government of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, and of Japan, Fumio Kishida; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg; the presidents of Poland and Romania, Andrzej Duda and Klaus Iohannis, respectively; and French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
With this conversation, the White House wants to underscore to allies the message that, despite the setback in Congress due to the opposition of the most radical Republicans, the United States will continue its assistance to Kiev, of which it is the main supporter.
A fierce internal fight between the moderate wing and the Trumpist wing in the Republican Party in the US House of Representatives last week caused an impasse in negotiations to extend the provision of funds to federal institutions. The impasse, which almost forced the suspension of non-essential operations of the Administration, was only resolved – for the moment, until mid-November – after both houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, agreed to exclude funds for Ukraine from the final bill. The White House had asked in August for $24 billion to cover Ukraine's needs through the next fiscal year. Once the resistance in the lower house became clear; the Senate — where support for Kiev is majority among Republicans and Democrats — approved $000.6 billion for Kiev.
The refusal of funds whipped up by the ultra congressmen caused consternation in the White House and among the ranks of Kiev's supporters in both parties. Although Biden signed the law on Saturday night, the next day he addressed Americans to stress that Washington will continue assistance to the country invaded by Russia for as long as necessary.
The Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, has transmitted that same message of tranquility to the Ukrainian forces, in a phone call on Monday with his counterpart in Kiev, Rustem Umerov, to "reiterate the continued commitment of the United States in the face of Russian aggression," according to the Pentagon.
In Congress — and as House Republicans continue to engage in a bitter dispute over the passage of that law, which may cost the president of the institution, also Republican Kevin McCarthy — the office, lawmakers are exploring ways to ensure that Ukraine is not left unprotected. Although the Pentagon has a remainder of about $6 billion, U.S. funds will run out in November if Congress does not approve new appropriations. "We cannot allow, under any circumstances, American support for Ukraine to be interrupted," Biden urged Sunday. "We don't have a lot of time, and there's a lot of urgency."
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby insisted on that idea at a White House press conference: a disruption in assistance that deprives Ukrainian forces of weapons or ammunition can have a disastrous outcome. There are six to eight weeks of good weather left for Ukraine to continue its counteroffensive and regain occupied ground before the onset of winter, he explained. Time is not on our side," the official said, calling on Congress to renew the aid as soon as possible.
Washington is Kiev's main backer in the war that began when Russian forces entered the former Soviet republic in February last year. Since then, the U.S. Congress has approved nearly $113 billion in economic, military and humanitarian contributions to Ukraine.
So far, the White House has not provided further details on the content of Tuesday's conversation with allies. From Warsaw, President Andrzej Duda has advanced that Biden had expressed his conviction that Congress will eventually approve the assistance. The US president "began by telling us the situation in the United States and what the real political situation is around Ukraine. He assured us that there is support for support." The tenant of the White House received, for his part, the commitment of the rest of the participants with the contribution of aid, according to the Polish head of state, who revealed that the leaders also addressed the reconstruction plans of the attacked country.
"Good call with NATO leaders," Stoltenberg said on his account on X, the former Twitter. "While Russia continues its brutal war, all of us remain committed to supporting Ukraine as needed."
Good call with #NATO leaders hosted by @POTUS. As Russia continues its brutal war we are all committed to supporting #Ukraine for as long as it takes.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) October 3, 2023
However, despite Biden's optimistic appeals and the fact that the vast majority of US lawmakers support continued support for Kiev; on Capitol Hill, it is noted with resignation that it will be increasingly difficult to move forward with new items for Kiev. Especially, as the electoral campaign progresses and the November 2024 elections approach, in which all the congressmen of the Lower House and a third of the senators are playing for the seat.
Last week's votes in the lower house made clear that resistance is growing within conservatives to continue what they perceive as a blank cheque to a faraway country. Almost half of the Republican caucus in that institution spoke out against what until now had been routine, an item of 300 million dollars for the purchase of weapons and the training of Ukrainian soldiers. One of the options that House Republicans are now proposing is to link aid to Ukraine with the tightening of control measures on the border with Mexico.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Washington 10 days ago to implore lawmakers not to waver in their assistance to the invaded country. A defeat, he warned, would leave an emboldened Russia on Europe's doorstep, with major consequences for the West.
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