Crumbling Consensus*

*Editor’s note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

Vice Rector of the Diplomatic Academy of Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry Oleg Karpovich speaks on potential changes in U.S. foreign policy

As a result of the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans won a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, Democrats managed to protect every blue seat in the Senate in the runoffs after the midterm election in Georgia in December 2022. All this only confirms the notion that American society is profoundly divided and fragmented.

The 2022 midterm elections suggest that Washington will continue to support Ukraine. However, the U.S. is likely to change its approach toward this conflict. This means that Washington could strengthen its control over the allocation and expenditure of funds to assist Ukraine in order to reduce the overall share of U.S. aid and shift the burden to European Union countries. If a Republican candidate wins the upcoming presidential election in 2024, there may be even more significant changes in Washington’s support for Kyiv.

As of today, Joe Biden’s administration is unlikely to deviate from its chosen course of supporting Ukraine because it relies on the existing bipartisan consensus. On the other hand, there are certain signs indicating that this consensus is crumbling.

Even some Democrats are having a change of heart about the Ukrainian conflict. There are progressive Democrats who do not question support for Kyiv in general, but who are urging Ukraine to adopt a more active approach to diplomatic negotiations.

While no fundamental changes are to be expected in this respect, one can’t help but notice that the White House is ready to compromise and explore diplomatic solutions. A few days before the 2022 midterm elections, it was reported that some U.S. politicians allegedly recommended that Kyiv reject its radical position in which a peace deal with Russia would be possible only if there is a change of power in the Kremlin.

Therefore, it is likely that the opposition to providing further aid to Ukraine will increase in the lower house of Congress, especially among Republican legislators. By taking control of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Republicans will have an opportunity to stall further budget expenditures.

When voting on Ukraine aid proposals, Biden will no longer be able to rely solely on Democratic votes and will be forced to compromise with Republicans. Therefore, inflation, prospects for economic recession and public opinion will influence how much financial aid Congress will approve for Kyiv.

It is also possible to project how the Ukrainian conflict will affect the upcoming 2024 presidential election. With a majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans are expected to set up a number of investigative committees. They might concentrate on the financial activities of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who was appointed to the board of directors of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings several years ago and was involved in several corruption scandals.

In addition, Kyiv’s image in the U.S. will be further undermined by the insignificant military successes of the Ukrainian army. Fearing that the U.S. will be dragged into another costly and protracted war, American politicians may use the Biden administration’s political failure on this front as an excuse to limit Washington’s support for Ukraine. Moreover, Republicans will not resist the desire to set up a special committee to investigate the Biden administration’s initiatives in support of Ukraine.

Since Republicans have no firm position on the issue of providing further aid to Ukraine, Washington is likely to shift the burden of Kyiv’s support to EU countries in the short term. Therefore, Europeans will have to reckon with the possibility that, even before the 2024 presidential election, the U.S. will begin to shift the financial burden of Kyiv’s military and economic support onto their shoulders.

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