Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas enthusiastically joined the general outrage when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. He took to Twitter immediately to condemn the attack as “the greatest breach of peace in Europe in nearly 80 years”. He went on a trip to Germany and the Polish-Ukrainian border in March to visit US troops and observe the humanitarian operations there. On his return, the Republican senator implored President Joe Biden to “get them the damn weapons”, while praising the contributions of Poland and Germany to the Ukrainian war effort as “heroic” and “ground-shaking”.
But just a few weeks later, his outrage had apparently faded. He was one of 11 senators to vote against the Biden administration’s proposed $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. In explaining his vote, Marshall noted that “our NATO allies’ contributions have dropped off significantly, turning this essentially into a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.” In the House, Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee wondered why the United States would send “$40 billion to Ukraine, and we can’t get baby formula? It’s time for Europe to step up.” A growing chorus of leading figures began to ask: if the rich Europeans are not going to adequately fund a war on the European continent, why should America do it?
The bill still passed and – for now – only a minority of Republicans are taking this view. But, in private, administration officials doubt they will be able to pass big aid packages for Ukraine after the midterm elections. In their view, Congress has grown wary of the enormous sums required to sustain the Ukraine war, particularly given the various domestic priorities and the looming threat of China. President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilisation of reservists means that the war will not end quickly. Administration officials expect budget-conscious Republicans to increasingly demand that Europe step up – and to point to Europeans’ inaction as a failure of Biden administration diplomacy. Even some anti-interventionist Democrats may join them.
One can see their point. The US has already pledged $44 billion in bilateral aid to Ukraine and the administration just asked Congress to approve another $13.7 billion. These are large figures even by Washington standards. Meanwhile, the combined contributions of the United Kingdom, the EU, and all 27 EU member states totals only $33 billion. In the key area of military aid, the gap is even wider: the US has pledged $24 billion, the Europeans only $12 billion. The actual difference may be greater, as key European donors have reportedly been slow to deliver on their pledges.
All this means that the current trickle of “blame Europe” arguments may turn into a torrent if the Republicans take control of Congress in November. The advantage of such claims is that they would allow newly empowered Congressional critics to oppose Biden’s policy without having to appear soft on Russia. [Continue reading…]