The Western coalition’s solidarity regarding Ukraine is displaying increased divisions, leaving Kyiv with no option but to accept and tolerate it.
Over 500 days after Russia’s complete invasion, Republican lawmakers in Washington DC thwarted an attempt to provide a significant amount of aid for the war-ravaged country on Saturday.
Only nine days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington to request ongoing support, the obstruction highlighted a strengthening of stances among Republican lawmakers who aim to terminate Washington’s aid for Kyiv.
While Republicans were casting their ‘no’ votes on Capitol Hill, Slovakian voters chose a pro-Russian prime minister, Robert Fico, who has promised to not provide any ammunition to Ukraine. He is likely to join forces with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn to resist additional European aid for Kyiv. Poland, previously a staunch ally of Kyiv, surprised many on September 20 by declaring that it will no longer supply weapons.
The signs of caution do not indicate a significant change in policy in Washington or Brussels. President Joe Biden has promised to support Ukraine despite the budget issues. Additionally, many European leaders continue to show strong support for Ukraine, and two EU diplomats (who prefer to remain anonymous) have stated that about €50 billion in aid will be approved for the country in the near future.
When questioned about the absence of funding for Ukraine in the U.S. stopgap bill, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that President Biden has gathered a coalition of over 50 nations to offer assistance to Ukraine. She also emphasized the strong international support for Ukraine and warned that Russian President Putin’s belief that he can outlast them is misguided.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, said he was “sure” the decision to block funding would be reconsidered. “We’ll continue to be on your side,” he told reporters in Kyiv Monday when asked how the U.S. budget shortfall would affect Ukraine.
Ukrainian leaders, who have received backlash from the US and UK for not showing enough appreciation for Western assistance, expressed optimism. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, alongside Borrell, stated that they are collaborating with both sides of Congress to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
‘Words of gratitude’
However, even with efforts to portray the situation in a positive light, the open criticism of aid by prominent Western leaders and Elon Musk’s online attacks against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have a daunting impact on Kyiv.
The statement that the U.S. and Europe will remain loyal to Kyiv under any circumstances is losing credibility.
Ukraine continues to rely heavily on Western aid not only to fund its efforts against Russia, but also to sustain its government operations. The country’s projected budget for 2024 anticipates receiving $42.8 billion from international donors, a significant portion of which would come from the United States. In an interview with POLITICO in June, Ukraine’s finance minister, Serhiy Marchenko, stated that the U.S. should intervene and offer some medium-term assistance.
When questioned about the delay in Capitol Hill, the representative for Marchenko did not provide any information on whether it will cause a budget deficit for Kyiv.
The European Union is concerned about the actions of Washington. Although many EU nations are in favor of assisting Ukraine, there is a condition that the aid is dependent on the evaluation of the EU’s budget for the future, which currently has no consensus. This could make it challenging to approve the deal by the end of the year, when the EU’s current aid for Ukraine expires.
An EU diplomat, who preferred to remain anonymous during the confidential budget negotiations, stated that there is minimal political discourse surrounding the financial aid for Ukraine. However, the overall puzzle is extremely challenging, making it impossible for anyone to make accurate predictions.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Orbán has stated that he will not provide financial support to Ukraine unless they address the treatment of Hungarian minorities living in the country. This stance has been criticized as a strategic veto intended to secure funds that Brussels is currently withholding from Budapest due to a separate disagreement over rule of law. With the recent election of a like-minded leader in Slovakia, Orbán may have more leverage in negotiations.
A second EU diplomat stated that member states continue to show overall support for providing aid to Ukraine. However, concerns arise about the possibility of the US abandoning Ukraine. Although this is a concern, it is unlikely to happen in the near future.
In the midst of uncertainty surrounding Ukraine’s ability to fund its budget and continue its military efforts, Ukrainian leaders are making an effort to remain optimistic and express their appreciation. In an interview with POLITICO last week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal emphasized his gratitude towards Poland, a partner with whom Ukraine has been in conflict over grain exports, and has recently promised to halt weapon shipments.
He expressed his gratitude to the Polish people and families for their support and assistance to Ukrainian refugees.
Reporting from Brussels was done by Gregorio Sorgi and Suzanne Lynch, while Eun Kim reported from Washington DC.