The decision by U.S. lawmakers to drop a $6 billion aid package for Ukraine is fueling anxiety among some of Kyiv’s allies that American support for the war effort is starting to waver.
Congress abandoned the funding for Kyiv to help avoid a government shutdown just as Ukraine intensifies efforts to repel Russia’s invasion, stoking concerns that the U.S. may be drifting toward isolationism and an increased focus on domestic politics. Less than two weeks ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the U.S. capital to plead for new weapons systems and continued financial and military support.
The development is concerning and needs to be resolved quickly, according to one senior European official, who asked not to be identified. There’s a broader shift in U.S. sentiment on Ukraine, and Putin and other aggressors may be emboldened in the absence of unwavering western support, the official added. One European Union leader predicted that the situation is likely to get more difficult as U.S. elections approach.
“It took most of us by surprise, those who are supporting Ukraine,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told Bloomberg Monday by telephone from Kyiv, where he was taking part in a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers.
“It could have raised some cheers in those countries who do not support Ukraine or wish them anything else but victory,” Landsbergis added. “It can be rectified, obviously, but it shows the difficulty of the discussion.”
Some allies pointed to comments from President Joe Biden, who urged House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to follow up quickly with funding, as evidence that broad international backing for Ukraine’s war effort is intact, and the holdup in aid for Kyiv only temporary.
“President Biden’s actually made it clear that it doesn’t change his view about the continuing gifting and financing,” U.K. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said Monday during a panel discussion at the Tory Party conference in Manchester. “But of course domestic politics will play into it.”
Congress on Saturday passed a bipartisan measure that would keep the U.S. government funded until mid-November, but the absence of aid to Ukraine was a blow to Biden’s administration.
Asked what he would say to Zelenskyy and other allies, the U.S. leader said: “I can reassure them. Look at me: We are going to get it done.”
But fresh assistance is becoming more difficult to achieve particularly as the domestic focus in the U.S. increasingly shifts to issues like border security.
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