Volodymyr Zelenskyy cancelled a highly anticipated meeting with US lawmakers yesterday, amid an ongoing battle in Congress over future funding to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president was due to appear by video at a briefing in the Senate and House, ahead of a vote on an emergency aid package that includes more than $60 billion in new military support for Kyiv. But following a "no-show" by Zelenskyy, said the BBC, Senate leader Chuck Schumer announced that the embattled president was occupied with a "last-minute" matter.
The cancellation came hours after Zelenskyy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, warned of the "big risk" of defeat by Russia without continued US support. "It will be difficult to keep in [the] same positions and for the people to really survive," Yermak told the US Institute of Peace in Washington D.C.
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The White House warned on Monday that the US would run out of funding to send Ukraine by the end of the year unless lawmakers approved emergency military aid. In a letter to Congress, the White House's budget director warned that an end to funds would "kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield".
"There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment," wrote Shalanda Young. "We are out of money – and nearly out of time."
What the papers said
David Cameron is making his first trip to Washington D.C. as the UK's foreign secretary today to discuss support for Ukraine, and will announce £37 million of humanitarian aid. The UK will also "target military suppliers who are propping up Putin's war machine", said The Telegraph, "through a series of sanctions".
All the same, said Al Jazeera, "uncertainty is growing" over Western backing for Ukraine.
As of July, 47 countries had provided military aid to the war-torn nation, according the Council on Foreign Relations. The top donors were the EU, followed by the US, UK and Germany, but some countries, including Norway, Latvia and Estonia, were "making far larger contributions" relative to the size of their economies, the New York-based think tank reported. Founding Nato member Norway topped the list, with aid equivalent to 1.7% of its GDP.
In October, the White House asked Congress to approve a $106 billion supplemental funding bill to help Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific. But "bipartisan negotiations over that bill have now stalled", said The Guardian's Washington-based correspondent Joan Greve, amid opposition by hard-right Republicans.
The US has already pledged nearly $70 billion in direct aid for Ukraine in the past 21 months, a total that is "unquestionably significant", said The Washington Post's European affairs columnist Lee Hockstader. But the "pot of money" approved by Congress "looks modest" by other measures. For example, the Afghan war cost US taxpayers more than $300 million per day for two decades, roughly triple the daily spend for Ukraine so far.
As of the end of July, the EU had committed nearly twice as much as the US to Kyiv, according to the Kiel Institute for World Economy's Ukraine Support Tracker. In June, the bloc announced a new €50 billion multi-year support package to be delivered between 2024 and 2027, doubling the EU's total commitments.
The German think tank reported that there had also been "important" new commitments from individual countries, including a four-year military fund worth €10.5 billion from Germany, and a Norwegian support programme worth €6.6 billion over five years. And that was on top of short-term commitments from Germany worth €619 million and the UK worth €286 million.
While the US Congress battles over aid to Ukraine, the EU is also struggling to pass its own €50 billion support package. Arguments against the aid are being led by Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has "ploughed a pro-Russian furrow since Moscow's invasion", said Al Jazeera.
But EU diplomats "remain convinced that the money will be delivered eventually", according to the Post's Hockstader. And the odds are that the "long-term return" would "more than justify" the "investment" by the US, he added.
If Russia were to move against Nato members such as the small Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, or a larger ally like Poland, Washington would be "obligated" by treaty commitments to send troops to defend them. And the cost of sending troops against a nuclear-armed power is "imponderable".
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