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There is growing concern about what Tuesday’s US midterm elections could mean for Ukraine and US support for the country, amid fears a Republican surge could weaken US support for Kiev.
Ukrainian officials and lawmakers are investigating the polls and analyzing the comments of their counterparts.
“We hope for our part that we do not become victims of the partisan debate that is now unfolding in the US,” Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a former Ukrainian deputy prime minister and now opposition legislator, told POLITICO. “That’s the fear, because we are very much dependent on not only US support, but also US leadership in terms of sustaining the concerted efforts of other countries.”
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, the possible next speaker if Republicans prevail, said last month there would be no “blank check” for Ukraine if the House comes back under Republican control. The Biden administration has tried to allay concerns over the administration’s commitment to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, but populist Republican sentiment in Congress is pushing for less support for Kiev and more attention to domestic problems in the US.
“I’m concerned about the Trump wing of the GOP,” said Mia Willard, a Ukrainian-American who lives and works in Kiev. “I recently read about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s promise that ‘not a cent more will go to Ukraine’ if Republicans regain control of Congress.”
According to the latest poll data, Republicans prefer to take over the House and possibly the Senate in Tuesday’s vote.
“I really hope that regardless of the election results,” Willard said, “there will be an ongoing bipartisan consensus on support for Ukraine amid the Russian genocide of the Ukrainian people, which I can call nothing more than a genocide after I emerged from the witnessed first-hand Russia’s war crimes in the now unoccupied territories,” said Willard, a researcher at the International Center for Policy Studies in the Ukrainian capital.
Former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin is confident that US military and financial support to his country will continue after the midterm elections. “I don’t see a critical number of people among Republicans asking for aid cuts,” he told POLITICO. At the same time, Klimkin acknowledged that the procedure for Congressional consideration of aid to Ukraine may become more complex.
Klimkin said he believes the US attitude towards Ukraine is “critical” to Washington outside of the Ukrainian conflict — “not only in regards to Russia, but also to how the US will be perceived by China.”
For Ukraine, Klimkin said the “real risk” is the debate going on in Washington on both sides of the aisle about the fact that “the United States is giving way more than all of Europe” to Kiev’s war effort.
According to the Kiel Institute of the World Economy, the US has increased its total commitments for military, financial and humanitarian aid to more than €52 billion, while EU countries and institutions combined have reached just over €29 billion.
“The US now commits almost twice as much as all EU countries and institutions combined. This is a poor showing for the larger European countries, especially as many of their pledges arrive in Ukraine with significant delays,” said Christoph Trebesch, head of the team composing the Ukraine support tracker at the Kiel Institute.
If Republicans win Tuesday’s vote, there are also fears that without US leadership, Ukraine would also slide off Europe’s policy agenda, depriving Ukraine of the support it needs for “victory over the Russian monster,” Klympush said. Tsintsadze. .
If the worst happens and US support wanes after the midterms, Klympush-Tsintsadze said she has some hope that Europe will remain steadfast. She has found in Europe “a lot more sobriety in assessing what Russia is and what it can do, and I hope there will be enough voices in Europe too to ensure support doesn’t weaken,” she said.
Others are less optimistic about how sturdy and reliable the Europeans would be without inciting and galvanizing Washington. Several officials and lawmakers pointed to the Balkan Wars of the 1990s and how the Clinton administration stepped back, arguing that Europeans should take the lead to intervene diplomatically and militarily later.
“We in Ukraine have been closely monitoring developments in the US and what configuration Congress will have after the midterm elections,” said Iuliia Osmolovska, president of the Transatlantic Dialogue Center and senior fellow at GLOBSEC, a global think tank headquartered in Bratislava.
“This could affect the US political establishment’s existing determination to continue to support Ukraine, especially militarily. Especially given the voices of some Republicans calling for a freeze on aid to Ukraine,” she said.
But Osmolovska remains hopeful, noting that “Ukraine has enjoyed bipartisan support in the war with Russia since the early days of the invasion in February this year.” She also believes President Joe Biden would have leeway to act more independently when it comes to military aid to Ukraine without Congressional approval, thanks to legislation already on the books.
But she doesn’t rule out “the risk of some exhaustion” from allies, arguing that Ukraine needs to redouble diplomacy efforts to avoid that. What needs to be emphasized, she said, is that “our Western partners only benefit from enabling Ukraine to defeat Russia as quickly as possible” — as a protracted conflict is in no one’s interest.
“There is a feeling in the air that we are winning in the war, although it is far from over,” said Glib Dovgych, a software engineer in Kiev.
“The loss of money and equipment will not mean our defeat, but a much longer war with much greater human losses. And since many other allies look to the US in their decisions to support us, other countries, such as Germany, France and Italy, would likely follow suit if the US cut their aid,” Dovgych said.
Yaroslav Azhnyuk, president and co-founder of Petcube, a technology company that develops smart devices for pets, says: “It is clear that opinions about how to end Russia’s war against Ukraine are being used for internal political competition within the US”
He is concerned about the influence on US political opinion, including US-based entrepreneurs and investors, citing the likes of David Sacks, Elon Musk and Chamath Palihapitiya. “They have publicly shared their views, saying that Ukraine should cede Crimea to Russia, or the US should stop supporting Ukraine to avoid a global nuclear war.”
Azhnyuk added: “I get it, nuclear weapons are scary. But what happens in the next 5-10 years after Ukraine cedes part of its territory or the conflict is frozen. Such a scenario would send a signal to the whole world that nuclear terrorism is working.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that regardless of the results of the US midterm elections, Kiev is “confident” that bipartisan support for Ukraine will remain in both chambers of Congress. Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed solidarity with Ukraine, and this stance would remain “a reflection of the will of the American people,” he said.
The Ukrainian side is counting on America’s leadership on key defense aid issues, especially in expanding the capacity of Ukraine’s air defense system, providing financial support, strengthening sanctions against Moscow and recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, it said. Podolyak to POLITICO.
And this isn’t just about Ukraine, said Klympush-Tsintsadze, the former deputy prime minister.
“Too many things in the world depend on this war,” she said. “It’s not just about restoring our territorial integrity. It’s not just about our freedom and our chance for the future, our survival as a nation and our survival as a country — it will have drastic consequences for the geopolitics of the world,” Klympush-Tsintsadze said.