President Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington was logical. Congress has just approved a large aid package to Ukraine that lasts well into next year. But starting next year, that support will become less certain. Europeans should be ready to jump in if necessary.
Shortly before Christmas, Joe Biden’s administration managed to secure its budget through next September. It took the last opportunity to do so before Republicans take over the majority in the House of Representatives in January — with the goal of blocking as much of the Democratic administration’s program as possible.
This success for the Democrats is controversial. One negative aspect is a spending increase of 8% relative to last year, which is ill-suited to fighting ongoing inflation at home. Despite all their statements to the contrary, most politicians care more about special interest voter and lobbyist groups than fiscal stability. In this respect, there are hardly any differences between Republicans and Democrats.
Senators Provide Stability
Particularly for international observers who do not need to contribute to financing the American nation, however, there is one positive aspect of the spending bill: the new aid package of $45 billion for Ukraine, which guarantees funding for economic aid, weapons and arms shipments through the end of next summer. Without this legislation, aid for Ukraine probably would quickly have become a pawn in interparty struggles, risking dangerous delays and uncertainties for Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines.
Many Republicans, as well as Democrats, support the generous aid from the White House for Ukraine’s fight against Russian invaders, as evidenced by the clear margin of 68-29 votes for the bill in the Senate, where Democrats occupy only 50 seats. Many Republican senators took to heart the message of their leader, Mitch McConnell, that “the most basic reasons for continuing to help Ukraine degrade and defeat the Russian invaders are cold, hard, practical American interests.”
McConnell is right. U.S. aid to Ukraine, now reaching the $100 billion mark, is money well spent. The defeats and heavy losses that the Russian army has sustained on the front are reducing the potential danger Vladimir Putin presents to peace and well-being in the U.S. and Europe. Nowhere else could such a large sum yield similarly significant effects.
Unity Will Become Shakier
It is impressive how widely this stance has taken hold in such a polarized U.S. political landscape. But it is unclear how this unity will develop next year, given the slim Republican majority and pressure from right-leaning Trump supporters in the House of Representatives. Aid to Ukraine will probably become more controversial in the future and will more often be used as a pawn to extract political concessions.
That is one more reason why Europe should not rely too comfortably on the U.S. The fact that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s first international trip since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24 took him to Washington is a logical outcome of significant American support, without which things would look very different in Ukraine today. But this trip is, in fact, a humiliation for Europe.
A glance at the map suggests that Zelenskyy’s natural allies should be in Berlin, Brussels or Paris. But because much less aid is flowing from there to Ukraine, he had to undertake the long journey to Washington. It is high time that Europeans take priority in Zelenskyy’s travel plans. Because what is true for the U.S. is even more so for them: They have the greatest stake in seeing Russia’s aggression in Eastern Europe beaten back by a powerful Ukrainian army.
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