The government is now immediately leaning on Congress to pass more funding from Ukraine in the omnibus spending bill currently under negotiation.
The White House relies on some unlikely allies: moderate Republicans in the House who have expressed support for the funding, as well as the minority leader in the Senate Mitch McConnel, who has steadfastly supported aid to Kiev. Government and Pentagon leaders have been quietly collaborating with GOP members in recent weeks to keep that momentum going, despite pressure from some in their far-right faction.
“We want to make sure they can defend themselves and take on what is purely the ugliest aggression on a large scale since World War II, on the part of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, within Ukraine,” Biden said recently. “And there’s so much at stake.”
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is trying to muster enough support to become speaker, said in October that Ukraine would no longer receive a “blank check” from Washington. And while he’s since returned, McCarthy can commit to newly empowered legislators like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who promised that “among the Republicans, not a penny will go to Ukraine again.”
Money will not be the only thing the government sends to Ukraine.
The Pentagon has ramped up preparations to arm Kiev and finalized plans to send in the Patriot missile defense system, which would greatly enhance Ukraine’s ability to defend against aerial attacks, including missiles and armed drones. need to improve.
The Defense Ministry is also considering sending other weapons, such as kits that would convert unguided aerial munitions into smart bombs, as well as explosives that would significantly increase Ukraine’s attack range. Talks are also underway to expand training for the Ukrainian army at a US base in Germany, officials said.
According to several White House officials, there are currently no plans for Biden to visit Kiev, mainly due to security concerns. But Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week, who urged his US counterpart to continue the flow of air defense weapons.
And there is growing concern in the capitals of both countries about what the next phase of the war will bring.
Ukraine’s counter-offensive, so successful when launched in late summer, has stalled along both the southern and eastern fronts, allowing Russian forces to dig in. The cold winter has slowed the fighting – which has devolved into World War I-style trench warfare – military officials warned this week that recent Russian troop and tank movements could telegraph another major attack in the coming weeks, perhaps even towards Kiev.
His war machine ground to a halt and humiliated, Putin has turned to long-range strikes and drones to destroy half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, causing millions of people to experience regular blackouts and power outages. With temperatures dropping dangerously, more Ukrainians may choose to flee the country, seeking shelter in neighboring countries and further straining the economies of other European countries.
Up to this point in the war, Biden has received high marks for reviving NATO and holding together a transatlantic alliance to oppose Putin. White House senior staff have been impressed by European unity so far. But they know Biden’s job will become more challenging in the coming difficult months.
While the Western alliance continues to side with Kiev, it is under pressure from an energy crisis and recession fears.
Biden has led Western leaders to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” but a new wave of Ukrainian refugees would further test the continent’s resources. An energy crisis across Europe has led to significant spending cuts and the continent — where inflation is at 11 percent — could be on the brink of recession.
An ocean away from the fighting, the United States has a stronger economy and therefore more patience. Biden has repeatedly said he will not pressure Zelenskyy into making a deal to end the war, and the Ukrainian president has vowed not to negotiate with Putin unless all of his country’s land is returned.
But with the end of the war in sight, Zelensky’s sentiment is beginning to test the patience of European leaders. White House aides believe Biden will have to lobby European leaders to hold course as attacks against civilians intensify.
“Russia is once again trying to instill fear in the hearts of the Ukrainian people and make it much harder for them as winter approaches,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, said on Friday. “We will remain undaunted to help Ukraine defend itself.”