Republicans in the US Senate block aid to Ukraine and Israel

Tomáš Iliev

On Wednesday, December 6, 2023, Republicans in the US Congress’s Senate rejected the Biden administration’s request for financial aid worth 111 billion US dollars, intended mainly for Ukraine and Israel. However, some of the funds were also to be sent to Taiwan and used to protect the US border from illegal migration. Fifty-one senators voted against aid to war-torn countries, and forty-nine were against it, while supporters of the financial package needed at least sixty votes from the ranks of senators. One of the opponents of the proposed aid package was the independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who usually votes with the Democrats in the Senate. He defended his move by claiming that he could not approve the provision of billions of dollars to Israel at a time when the Israeli army’s offensive in Gaza was causing an increased number of civilian casualties. Republicans say they blocked the provision of the financial package because their demand to tighten rules on the US-Mexico border, which are supposed to limit the flow of illegal migrants into the US, was not met.

The current development of the situation is a highly disadvantageous scenario, especially for Ukraine, which was supposed to receive 50 billion US dollars from the total package and thereby maintain the ability to defend itself against Russian aggression even during the winter months. Israel, which is currently fighting the terrorist organisation Hamas in the Gaza Strip, lost $14 billion through the Senate’s decision. The financial aid package for US foreign partners was rejected despite the efforts of the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden himself, who openly stood in support of the financial package before the vote, which is part of the bill to help US foreign partners and which was introduced in the Senate by the Democratic Party only the day before the vote.

The very result of the vote proves that Ukraine will probably not receive the expected aid until the end of 2023. It is also questionable whether the aid will be approved in 2024. The representatives of the Republicans have stated that they do not intend to make any concessions unless their conditions for a stricter regime on borders are met. That is one of the reasons why the White House and Kyiv are sounding the alarm. The Ukrainian administration claims that without financial and material assistance (especially in the form of weapons and ammunition), Ukrainian troops will not be able to repel Russian attacks, and retaking the occupied territory into Ukrainian hands will be impossible. According to Ukrainian representatives, the situation on the battlefield is dire, and without American help, Ukraine may start losing the war with Russia.

US President Joe Biden expressed his concern about the result of the vote, saying that opponents of the financial package threaten the democracy and security of overseas partners and the United States itself. At the same time, President Biden added that he is ready to accept a significant compromise on the issue of protecting the American southern border, which will bring the Republicans’ approval of aid for Kyiv. The White House also issued a statement claiming that it will not allow the suspension of assistance to Ukraine and that the Biden administration will continue in military aid to Ukraine even through the winter. More precisely, it should send 4.8 billion dollars to purchase weapons and ammunition for the Ukrainian army.The failed vote only confirmed the waning support of the political and public spectrum in the US to support Ukraine and its fight against Russian aggression. There can be several reasons – especially the failure to achieve the military goals that the Western partners expected from the virtually finished summer offensive of Ukraine, which has resulted in Moscow retaking the initiative on the battlefield. The vote also confirmed the trend of Republicans losing their will to support Ukraine, even under public pressure. The latest polls among US citizens show that even the public is losing the will to continue supporting Kyiv. But that doesn’t mean Republicans are against any aid to foreign partners. Immediately after the failed vote, some of the Republican senators proposed that the US should focus on helping Israel and deal with support for Ukraine separately. However, the fact remains that although Tel Aviv is at open war with Hamas, the Israeli military objectives in Gaza are likely to be achieved even if US financial aid is delayed. In Ukraine, the situation is different. Economic and military support is the only possible solution for Ukraine to parry Russian attacks and recapture the occupied territory. If Republicans were to continue their boycott, the White House must find a solution to keep Ukraine combat-ready. Otherwise, the interests of the Western partners led by the US, as well as their security and sovereignty, may be threatened. Republicans should, therefore, realise that they have a unique opportunity to tame the ambitions of the Putin regime and prove that the US always stands behind its partners steadfastly.

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