February 2, 2023

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The White House is counting on Congress, gathering allies, to help Ukraine through the war's winter

The White House is counting on Congress, gathering allies, to help Ukraine through the war’s winter

As soon as possible, the administration is leaning on Congress now to pass more Ukraine funding in the sweeping spending bill currently being negotiated.

The White House is counting on some unlikely allies: moderate House Republicans who have expressed support for the funding, as well as the Senate minority leader. Mitch McConnell, who steadfastly supported the help of Kyiv. Administration and Pentagon leaders have quietly come together with members of the Republican Party in recent weeks to keep that momentum going despite pressure from some in their far-right faction.

“We want to make sure that they are able to defend themselves and take what is purely the most heinous aggression that has taken place since the Second World War on a large scale, by [Russian President Vladimir] Biden said recently. “There is a lot 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 has since backed down, McCarthy may find himself beholden to newly empowered legislators like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (Republic-ga.), who vowed that “under the Republicans, not a single penny will go to Ukraine.”

Money will not be the only thing the administration sends to Ukraine.

The Pentagon has stepped up its preparations to arm Kyiv, Finalized plans to field the Patriot missile defense systemwhich would significantly enhance Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against air attacks, including missiles and armed drones.

The Defense Ministry is also considering sending other weapons, such as equipment that would convert unguided aerial munitions into smart bombs, as well as explosives that would greatly expand the range of Ukrainian strikes. According to the officials, there are also ongoing discussions to expand training for the Ukrainian military at a US base in Germany.

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Currently, there are no plans for Biden to visit Kyiv, mainly due to security risks, according to several White House officials. But Biden spoke last week to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who urged his US counterpart to continue the flow of air defense weapons.

There is growing concern in the capitals of both countries about the next phase of the war.

The Ukrainian counter-offensive, which had been highly successful when it was launched in late summer, stalled along the southern and eastern fronts, allowing the Russian forces to dig in. A cold winter has slowed the fighting — which has devolved into World War I-style trench warfare — but Ukrainian military officials warned this week that Russia’s latest troop and tank movements could send another major offensive in the coming weeks, perhaps even toward Kyiv.

His war machine stalled, and Putin turned to long-range strikes and drones to destroy half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, causing regular blackouts for millions. With temperatures dropping dangerously low, more Ukrainians may choose to flee the country to seek shelter in neighboring countries and put more pressure on the economies of other European nations.

Up to this point in the war, Biden gets high marks for reviving NATO and uniting a transatlantic alliance to stand against Putin. Top White House aides have admired European unity up to this point. But they know Biden’s job is only going to get tougher during these tough next few months.

The Western coalition, although it continued to side with Kyiv, was strained by the energy crisis and fears of recession.

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Biden has led Western leaders in pledging support for Ukraine “as long as it takes,” but another wave of Ukrainian refugees will test the continent’s resources even further. The energy crisis across Europe has caused deep cuts, and the continent – where inflation is running at 11 per cent – may be on the brink of recession.

In an environment far from fighting, the United States has a stronger economy and, therefore, more patience. Biden has said repeatedly that he will not pressure Zelensky to reach an agreement to end the war, and the Ukrainian president has vowed not to negotiate with Putin unless all of his country’s territory is returned.

But with no end in sight to the war, Zelensky’s sentiments began to test the patience of European leaders. White House aides believe Biden will need to pressure European leaders to stay the course as attacks against civilians mount.

“Russia is once again trying to strike fear into the hearts of the Ukrainian people and make it much more difficult for them as winter comes,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, said Friday. “We will remain unchecked in helping Ukraine defend itself.”