Light at the End of the Trump Tunnel

Republican Speaker Mike Johnson is demanding a lot to finally green light new aid for Ukraine. But he is risking even more, namely Donald Trump’s anger — and, with it, his office.

The Republican house speaker is presenting President Joe Biden’s Democrats with a series of onerous conditions for a new aid package for Ukraine. That would have been bad news for Kyiv and Europe a year ago. But now, Mike Johnson’s demands are the light at the end of the Donald Trump tunnel. Clearly, Johnson is no longer willing to completely obey a veto coming from candidate Donald Trump, who opposes any support for Ukraine.

Still, the fact that Johnson does not just put the aid package that has been approved by the Senate up for a vote, and thus allow it to be rammed through the House mostly with Democratic votes, is a question of political survival for Johnson.

Only a Loan This Time?

Kyiv is only supposed to receive a loan instead of aid this time. Still, it would dispel the acute danger that Russia will gain the upper hand in the war because of America due to an American self-blockade. (Europe can prepare to get a call from Washington when the loan comes due.)

The plan to pass frozen Russian assets on to Kyiv is more controversial. What makes political sense to many is raising many legal questions — and it would be, above all, a symbolic gesture anyway, since the U.S. does not hold any massive amount of Russian money. In the end, Johnson presumably wants to force Biden to rescind his moratorium on constructing liquid gas export terminals. That would be a small hit on Biden’s climate policy and thus a balm for many Republican souls.

It would also be a victory for Johnson’s home state of Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico. One can see that as one more indication of how aware the speaker is of the political risk he is taking. It is very possible he will push through aid for Ukraine but then lose his job because Trump and his people will make short work of him. The demands of his home state’s energy industry would be much more relevant for a simple representative like Johnson than geopolitical worries in Europe.

So, we will have to thank him for the maneuvering if he manages to give Kyiv a victory, at least on the battlefield of American domestic politics.

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