Mark Galeotti Mark Galeotti

The US Senate is playing into Putin’s hands

Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky (Credit: Getty images)

The news this week that Republicans in the US Senate had voted together to block a supplemental funding bill that included provision for $61 billion for Ukraine was greeted with predictable dismay in Kyiv and glee in Moscow.

Ostensibly this was a bid to force the White House into prioritising more spending on securing the Mexican border. However it also reflects a real sense on the part of some within the GOP that the United States is either throwing good money after bad in maintaining support for the conflict, or continuing to subsidise a backsliding Europe that really ought to be taking the lead on this crisis. After all, while Europe as a whole has committed more funds to Ukraine – $143.4 billion to the USA’s $111 billion – the level of support is very variable (Norway tops the league, devoting 1.6% of its GDP, while France, Spain and Italy all lag, at below 0.1%). More to the point, many of the specific military capabilities Ukraine needs can only really be met by the Americans.

If Europe is forced to increase its support for Ukraine, then that is likely to prove divisive and controversial.

So far, Congress has earmarked $111 billion for assistance to Ukraine: $67 billion in military support, $27 billion in economic and civil support and $10 billion in humanitarian aid. However, according to a letter sent to Congressional leaders by Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, all of this – apart from around 3 per cent of the military aid – had been spent by mid-November. Her blunt warning that ‘we are out of money to support Ukraine in this fight’ fell on deaf ears, though.

Olena Zelenska, wife of the Ukrainian president, used an interview with the BBC to say that her people were in ‘mortal danger’, as ‘if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.’

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