The limits of US aid to Ukraine have remained largely untried in Washington as President Biden moves to Kiev to determine the war’s end state.
The House this week passed a new $40 billion military and economic aid package for Ukraine, adding $7 billion to the White House’s top-line request. The new package brings total US support for the war to nearly $54 billion after Senate approval.
But as lawmakers rush to send much-needed aid out the door, a small group of lawmakers are asking how the war will end and how much it will cost.
“I think it’s already an evolving mission,” said Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul. “In the past, I think we were trying to avoid defeating the Ukrainians. Now their foreign minister has said for the past two days that the goal is to remove the Russians from every aspect of the country, including Crimea.”
“You could see how it could be a protracted war for different purposes,” he said. “It could eventually. You could tell it was akin to the 20-year war in Afghanistan.”
President Biden has vowed to support Kiev all along, while promising that only Ukraine will determine its own victory. And the administration is counting on continued support for the war in Congress to keep aid flowing.
“We believe Ukraine should define what victory means and our policy is to ensure Ukraine’s success,” Karen Donfried, deputy secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
“We are determined to support Ukraine so that it can prevail in this conflict,” she said. “The tremendous bipartisan support we have in Congress for the aid we’ve given, whether that’s security aid, economic aid, or humanitarian aid, puts us in an extremely strong position to stay on track…as it looks like this war , quite tragic, may drag on for the foreseeable future.”
Ukrainian officials have set the bar high in recent public statements calling for the complete expulsion of Russian troops from their territory, including in the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the Donbas region, which has since been in a state of turmoil. stalemate. period.
Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, reiterated the administration’s position that the US will not stand in the way of negotiations over Ukraine, but said he is confident the government will work with Ukraine to find a solution. to define a clear end state.
“We are not negotiating for Ukraine,” he said. “They will have to decide.”
“Now we should have conversations at a diplomatic level, not in a public way, about what the end state looks like,” he said. “And I trust our diplomats are doing this.”
While the majority of lawmakers remain steadfast in their support for Ukraine — the latest aid package received unanimous support from House Democrats and most Republicans — rifts within the GOP have widened over financing the war as it continues.
In a speech to the House Floor Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, his colleagues for spending billions more on the war in Ukraine than Congress spends on US customs and border patrol — a common refrain from some Republicans since tensions began to mount. increase at the border with Ukraine in winter.
He also deplored the “dangerous Congressional bipartisan consensus that is putting us at war with Russia”.
Mr. Gaetz was one of 57 Republicans who voted against the latest aid package.
Rep. Chip Roy, Texas Republican, was another dissident.
“The idea that we’re going to say ‘here’s $40 billion,’ then you’re going to look at the parameters, that’s a blank check,” he said. “I mean, it’s just open ended.”
Paul on Thursday blocked the Senate’s attempt to speed up aid over his push to include language in the bill that would create a special inspector general to oversee aid disbursements to Ukraine.
During his ground speech on the measure, he expressed further concerns about US spending on the war amid economic uncertainty at home.
“My oath of office is to the US Constitution, not to a foreign nation… We cannot save Ukraine by damning the US economy,” said Mr. Paul. “It’s not that we always have to be Uncle Sam, the cop who saves the world, especially when it comes to borrowed money.”
Mr Smith said the disagreement over the aid package reflects a widening divide in the Republican Party, but said it was noteworthy that many more Republicans supported the package than not.
Still, Mr Smith acknowledged that the US’s ability to support Ukraine is “not unlimited”. And although he does not expect a new request for help, it is not completely ruled out, according to him.
“That’s a very difficult question to answer,” he said. “Forty billion dollars is a lot of money. I don’t expect another question, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.”