House of Representatives holds off on Ukraine aid package − here’s why the US has a lot at stake in supporting Ukraine

Map of UkraineMap of Ukraine from Open Streetmaps

by Tatsiana Kulakevich, University of South Florida, [This article first appeared in The Conversation, republished with permission]

As Russia’s war on Ukraine continues without a clear end in sight, Ukrainians are facing a cold reality. While President Joe Biden is in close contact with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Biden’s support of Zelenskyy does not necessarily signal continued financial support of Ukraine by the U.S. government.

The U.S. has been the largest single donor backing Ukraine since Russian troops invaded the country in February 2022. Since then, the U.S. has sent Ukraine approximately US$113 billion in a combination of cash, military supplies and machinery, as well as food and other humanitarian supplies.

Biden has asked Congress to approve another $95 billion in aid for Ukraine, Israel and other allies. About $60 billion of this would be spent on Ukraine.

While the Senate passed this foreign aid bill in February 2024, it is stalled in the House of Representatives. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has not allowed a vote on the measure.

Zelenskyy laid out the stakes for continued U.S. support on April 8, 2024, saying, “If the Congress doesn’t help Ukraine, Ukraine will lose the war.”

Russia has increased its bombing of Ukraine in recent months, and the battle lines between Russia and Ukraine have moved little in the past year.

It is not entirely clear when and how the House will vote on Ukraine. Still, as a scholar of Eastern Europe, I think there are a few important reasons why the U.S. is unlikely to cut funding to Ukraine.

Republicans are divided over Ukraine aid

Johnson is facing pressure to delay voting on the Ukraine foreign aid bill for a few reasons. One major factor is fighting between Republicans, who hold a slim majority in the House.

While some centrist Republican politicians support Ukraine funding and are pushing for a vote on the foreign aid package, others – hard-right Republicans – want a bill that prioritizes what they say are American interests, meaning more of a focus on domestic U.S. problems.

Another issue is the rising threat of other Republicans trying to remove Johnson from his leadership role.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia filed a motion on March 22, 2024, to prompt a vote that could push Johnson out of his House leadership position if he tries to advance an aid package.

Delays on Ukraine benefit Putin

As the House continues to stall on a vote, Ukraine is rationing ammunition and supplies. This, in turn, provides an opportunity for Russia to strengthen its arsenal.

Delays with foreign aid to Ukraine give Putin time to move forward with plans to purchase ballistic missiles from Iran. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby expressed concerns in early January 2024 that Russia was close to acquiring short-range ballistic weapons from Iran.

Russia already buys drones from Iran and ballistic missiles from North Korea.

In February, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan pointed out that Ukrainian forces lost a major center of resistance in the east of Ukraine called Avdiivka to Russia because of a shortage of ammunition.

Without foreign aid from the U.S., Ukraine will face a strategic disadvantage that could lead to Russia winning the war. That could lead to Russia increasing its threats on nearby NATO countries.

The US needs Europe to compete with China

There are other reasons why many experts think it helps the U.S. to back Ukraine. One factor is U.S. global power competition with China.

Russian and Chinese leaders declared a military and political partnership days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. They announced on April 9, 2024, that they want to find ways to strengthen their joint security work across Asia and Europe.

U.S. political and military leaders have noted that supporting Ukraine and pushing back against Russia is one clear way to deter China from strengthening its global political power and military reach.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Paparo said in February 2024 that Russia’s potential loss in Ukraine is “a deterrence in the western Pacific and directly reassures partners.”

The admiral said that China is studying the Ukraine invasion for its own purposes, in order to “effect a short, sharp conflict that presents a fait accompli to all of the world.” He called for the U.S. to continue to fund Ukraine’s war.

The U.S. needs its long-standing allies in Europe to help push back against China – and deterrence is only as effective as the size of the force doing the deterring.

Ely Ratner, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, recently explained this principle and how it relates to China: “We believe deterrence is real and deterrence is strong, and we’re working every day to keep it that way.”

Foreign aid benefits US arms industry

Most of America’s military aid to Ukraine consists of arms and ammunition from existing U.S. stockpiles. If Congress approves an additional $60 billion for Ukraine, more than half of this money would go to U.S. factories that manufacture missiles and munitions.

In December 2023, Biden signed a U.S. defense policy bill that authorizes a record-high $886 billion in spending from July 2023 through June 2024. This includes a 5.2% pay raise for troops, $11.5 billion in support of initiatives to help deter China and $800 million to support Ukraine’s counteroffensive war.

But it also allows for the purchasing of new ships, aircraft and other types of ammunition. For defense stocks, that means a promising start to 2024, as the military will be likely to boost defense contractors’ revenues looking to restock supplies shipped to Ukraine.

Americans continue to support Ukraine aid

A majority of Americans still favor U.S. support of Ukraine, though about half of Republicans said in December 2023 that the U.S. is giving too much money to the country.

Even though politicians do not always follow public opinion, there are clear reasons why it is not in the U.S.’s best interests to cut funding to Ukraine.

Tatsiana Kulakevich, Associate Professor of Instruction in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, Affiliate Professor at the Institute for Russian, European, and Eurasian Studies, University of South Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.