Congressional leaders were presented with a grim picture of the collapse of Ukraine’s military without continued US aid in the form of ammunition, vehicles and other supplies during a meeting at the White House, according to NBC News.
Officials with knowledge of the 17 January White House meeting between President Joe Biden and congressional leaders Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Mike Johnson and Hakeem Jeffries told the news outlet that top US officials are predicting massive Russian advances and a total collapse of Ukraine’s ability to fight back should US aid to the latter dry up.
Mr Biden has requested $60bn in supplemental assistance for Ukraine. That request has been met with bickering in Congress, where Republicans are seeking to use the issue as leverage against the administration and Democrats in funding talks.
Within weeks, Ukraine will run out of certain air defence capabilities, national security adviser Jake Sullivan is reported as having told the assembled lawmakers. That could lead to a wide expansion of Russia’s air assaults on not just the front lines but targets across Ukraine. According to Mr Sullivan, Ukraine could only effectively remain a capable fighting force for a few months, possibly even just a few weeks, if further US aid was not passed by Congress.
There was also reportedly talk of the effect that a defeat of Ukraine would have on the US’s image abroad; countries caught between the US and Russia (or China) would likely rethink decisions to seek closer ties with the US, Biden administration officials warned.
It’s the first real sign that the Biden administration is seriously worried about the outcome of the Russia-Ukraine war, especially now that the issue of Ukraine aid has become mired in domestic US politics. It is vehemently opposed by some right-wing members of the GOP House caucus, who thanks to the lowered motion to vacate threshold in the chamber have an oversized amount of influence over Mike Johnson, the speaker.
And it comes as lawmakers do not appear to be significantly closer to inking a deal on the issue of immigration and border security, an issue griped about for years in Washington with little action to match. Republicans have demanded that border security and the issue of large numbers of immigrants crossing the border illegally as part of their efforts to begin the asylum process be dealt with before aid to Ukraine (or Israel) is passed; however, the hard-right GOP House caucus has simultaneously shown little interest in addressing the compromise being sought in the Democrat-controlled Senate in any meaningful way.
Mr Johnson himself has cast doubt on the idea that immigration-related legislation will pass the House as a result of the Senate negotiations and has said that the issue will not be truly addressed until a Republican is present in the White House.
It remains unclear, then, what path Ukraine aid has through the House of Representatives. Mr Biden has made little progress in talks with Mr Johnson, and there appears to be little synergy on the issue between the House and Senate Republican caucuses.
The future of the US’s commitment to Ukraine has been put wholly into question thanks to the ongoing American presidential election. Though the most vocal skeptics of further US military aid for Ukraine’s cause have now dropped out of the Republican primary race, Donald Trump’s comments about the issue have drawn worried responses from Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president.
Mr Zelensky recently denounced his onetime American counterpart for his frequent boasting about his supposed ability to stop the war within days of his hypothetical election to a second term.
“[Trump] is going to make decisions on his own, without … I’m not even talking about Russia, but without both sides, without us," Mr Zelensky said, according to the Associated Press. “If he says this publicly, that's a little scary. I've seen a lot, a lot of victims, but that's really making me a bit stressed.”