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What’s Happening with American Aid for Ukraine?


The Pentagon and foreign policy experts are warning that Ukraine is in dangerous need of further support to continue defending itself against Russia’s invasion. Despite these warnings, Congress has been reluctant to approve additional aid for the country’s defense. Why is defending a nation half a world away important for Americans, and why doesn’t Congress want to do it?

Ukraine has been fighting back against Russia’s invasion for going on three years. Reports say it’s been reduced to firing thousands fewer rounds of ammunition, while Russia is continuing to resupply itself with arms acquired from like-minded countries, including North Korea. The war’s casualties are also depleting Ukraine’s properly trained soldiers and weapons, forcing them on the defensive.

The fate of Ukraine is important for the United States. If it falls to Russia, that defeat will signal to not only Vladimir Putin, but other authoritarian regimes as well, that they are capable of getting what they want by using force. It will embolden them to use violence and make conflicts more likely. The potential impacts of a Russian victory so close to America’s European allies in NATO could bring future costs in further conflicts far worse than the expense of helping defend Ukraine.

What does American aid for Ukraine actually mean? The legislation being proposed—the National Security Act passed by the Senate but awaiting approval from the House—includes roughly $60 billion in aid for Ukraine. This funding covers a combination of equipment, vehicles, and ammunition, as well as training for Ukrainian forces by U.S. and other allied personnel. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States has given Ukraine about $43 billion of the same kind of aid. A large coalition of other supporting nations has also contributed similar support. While that may seem like a large sum, in context it is less than 0.5% of America’s defense budget in 2023.

So, if continuing aid is important to U.S. interests, and what is proposed is nothing different from what’s already been done, what is the holdup? The Senate passed the $60 billion aid package for Ukraine with bipartisan support in a 70-29 vote, including forty-six Democrats and twenty-two Republicans. But the Speaker of the House, Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, refused to bring the Senate bill up for a vote in the House, and chose not to address aid for Ukraine until after Congress’s current recess.

Johnson’s decision is heavily influenced by current political divisions among Republicans. Some, including former President Trump and Senator Rand Paul, are against the aid bill because they don’t believe it does enough to address immigration issues on America’s southern border. The Senate’s initial plan was to propose a bill that incorporated stricter measures related to asylum and border security negotiated by a bipartisan team of Senators. But when former President Trump and other Republican leaders objected to the deal because they claimed it didn’t do enough to stop illegal border crossings, their blockage of the bill made Senate leadership resort to a back-up plan of pushing forward with the aid bill without measures related to the border. Then other Republican senators, including Rand Paul, objected to proposing an aid package without including any provisions for border security, and started putting pressure on House Republicans to oppose the standalone aid bill in front of them.

Others appear to have fallen victim—or bought in—to Russian-aligned misinformation on this critical issue. Some opponents have argued against aiding Ukraine because the money would just be wasted by corruption in Ukraine. In defending this stance, Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene shared links to a story claiming that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenksy used aid money from the United States to buy two luxury yachts. But the claim appeared on a website created by a former American Marine who now lives in Russia and the boats mentioned in the story were not even actually sold.

These arguments serve as an example of how misinformation can dangerously impede effective discussion of real policies to solve real problems, and how partisan politics can stymy critical actions that are important for U.S. interests and safety.

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