White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pushed back against growing concerns that Republican lawmakers would not keep aid flowing to Ukraine should they retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November midterm election.
“The United States has provided Ukraine with robust bipartisan support,” she told reporters Wednesday. “We will continue to work with Congress as we have these past several months on these efforts and support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
The United States has authorized more than $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, with more than $17 billion in security assistance disbursed since the war began in February.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, however, indicated that aid could slow down should the chamber be controlled by Republicans.
On Tuesday, McCarthy told Punchbowl News that with a recession coming, Americans are not going to write “a blank check” to Ukraine. “They just won’t do it. … It’s not a free blank check,” he said.
Ukrainians, still reeling from Russian drone and missile attacks on their capital, Kyiv, and other cities, leaving much of the country without power, are closely following the U.S. midterm election process, said Olena Shuliak, chairwoman of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People Party.
“Our people die every day. Every day, we stand defending democracy in the whole world,” she told VOA Ukrainian. “You can see what is happening daily with the shelling and destruction of our houses and killing of our people — you can’t decrease the support only to increase it.”
Observers say that with rising isolationist tendencies in the Republican Party, some worry that aid to Ukraine would wane, particularly for humanitarian and economic needs. There is less concern for U.S. security assistance, however, considering Republicans generally support the military industrial complex, said Kristine Berzina, a senior fellow for security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
“What is the desperate need from Europeans right now in Ukraine and all across the [NATO] eastern flank? It is the need for weapons systems, everything from ammunition to very sophisticated weapon systems like HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems], drones,” Berzina told VOA. “The defense budgets are increasing so significantly in Europe that the increase in defense spending is outpacing what is available on the shelf.”
In May, Congress voted for more than $40 billion in new military and humanitarian assistance, with 57 House Republicans voting against the package.
Focus on China
Looming recession aside, some Republican lawmakers have signaled that the U.S. should instead focus more on the threat of China’s military buildup.
“There are a lot of members that want to see more accountability in the Department of Defense and more of a focus on the threats that are out there,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told reporters last month. “China is moving very aggressively to build up a naval fleet, and right now our naval fleet is in decline.”
Berzina said the conflict in Ukraine is a testing ground not only of the West’s technological warfare capabilities but of its commitment to defend a partner against an aggressor.
The competitive military environment in Ukraine is giving defense companies reason to innovate and invest in weapon technologies, many of which are being tested on the Ukrainian battlefields.
“That’s going to be important should there be a conflict with China in the future,” she said.
China, she added, is also learning from the West’s reaction to Moscow’s expansionist ambitions.
“Any kind of permissibility in Ukraine also has implications,” she said. “How tough is the U.S. going to be when it comes to Taiwan?”
Some Republican lawmakers have also cited a need for greater oversight of the aid being sent to Ukraine and complained that the U.S. is shouldering more of the financial burden than other NATO members.
Observers say that stopping U.S. support for Ukraine would wipe out Kyiv’s gains on the battlefield and could alter the course of the war.
“Is it better to have an investment in Ukraine defense right now before you have to defend half of the European continent?” Berzina asked. “So there’s a fiscally conservative argument to stopping it now before the problem becomes so big that the U.S. has to put more money into it in much bigger places.”
Tatiana Koprowicz contributed to this report.