The limits of U.S. support for Ukraine have been largely untested in Washington as President Biden defers to Kyiv to define the final state of the war.
The House of Representatives this week passed a new $40 billion military and economic aid package for Ukraine, adding $7 billion to the White House’s top request. Once approved by the Senate, the new package would bring total U.S. support for the war to nearly $54 billion.
But as lawmakers scramble to get much-needed aid out, a small group of lawmakers is asking how the war will end and how much it will cost.
“I think it’s already an evolving mission,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. “Before, I thought we were trying to prevent the Ukrainians from being defeated. Now, their foreign minister has said in the last day or two that the goal is to expel the Russians from all aspects of the country, including Crimea.”
“You can see that if there were different goals, it could be a protracted war,” he said. “It might end up like this. You can see it’s similar to the 20-year war in Afghanistan.”
President Biden has vowed to support Kyiv all the way, while pledging that only Ukraine can decide its victory. The administration is pinning its hopes on firm support for the congressional war to keep aid flowing.
“We believe Ukraine should define what victory means, and our policies are working to ensure success in Ukraine,” Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Downfried told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
“We are committed to supporting Ukraine so that it can win this conflict,” she said. “We’ve had tremendous bipartisan support in Congress for the assistance we’ve been providing, whether it’s security assistance, economic assistance, or humanitarian assistance, which puts us in a very good position to stay the course…because this The war looks very tragic and may go on for a while.”
Ukrainian officials have set high standards in recent public statements, calling for the complete expulsion of Russian troops from their territories, including the Crimea peninsula Russia annexed in 2014 and the Tundra, which has been at an impasse since the same period. Bath area. period.
Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, endorsed the administration’s position that the U.S. would not stand in the way of negotiations in Ukraine, but said he believed the administration was engaging with Ukraine to define a clear end state.
“We are not negotiating for Ukraine,” he said. “They’re going to have to make a decision.”
“Now at a diplomatic level, not in an overt way, we should have a conversation about what the end state will look like,” he said. “And I believe our diplomats are doing it.”
While most lawmakers remain staunchly supportive of Ukraine — the latest aid package has unanimous support from House Democrats and a majority of Republicans — there are internal Republicans on funding the war as the war drags on. differences are growing.
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gates, speaking in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, blasted his colleagues for spending billions more on the Ukraine war than Congress spends on U.S. Customs and Border Patrol — a result of the tensions A common topic for some Republicans since the beginning. Added Ukrainian borders in winter.
He also lamented the “dangerous bipartisan consensus in Congress that brought us into war with Russia.”
Mr. Gates was one of 57 Republicans who voted against the latest aid package.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is another opponent.
“We’re going to say the idea of ’there’s $40 billion here,’ and then you go to the parameters, and that’s a blank check,” he said. “I mean, it’s just open-ended.”
Mr Paul on Thursday blocked an attempt by the Senate to speed up the aid process as he pushed to include language in a bill that would create a special inspector general to oversee aid payments to Ukraine.
In his remarks on the measure, he further worried about U.S. spending on wars amid economic uncertainty at home.
“My oath of office is the U.S. Constitution, not any foreign country… We cannot save Ukraine by destroying the U.S. economy,” Mr. Paul said. “It’s not like we’re always going to be Uncle Sam, the cops who save the world, especially when it comes to borrowing money.”
Mr Smith said dissent over the aid package reflected growing divisions within the Republican Party, but said it was notable that far more Republicans supported the package than did not.
Mr Smith acknowledged, however, that the US’s ability to support Ukraine “is not limitless”. While he does not expect another request for assistance, he said it was not entirely impossible.
“That’s a tough question to answer,” he said. “$40 billion is a lot of money. I don’t expect anyone to ask again, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.”