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US assistance to Ukraine. Will something be resolved this week?

U.S. Senate
U.S. Senate

Regarding the American aid package and the events that will take place this week:

Everyone has read two directly opposite news items that came out literally within a day and contradict each other at first glance.

Senators are to consider a document based on a bipartisan agreement that will include both changes to the legislation on the US border and illegal migrants, as well as an aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, which President Joe Biden requested last fall. At the same time, House Speaker Mike Johnson promises to introduce an aid bill exclusively for Israel, without any decisions on Ukraine.

What does this mean? Nothing so far. The struggle in American politics is ongoing, and to understand a little bit of what is happening there, we need to realize that the logic about it isn’t really about policy. It is about electioneering.

The United States will hold elections in less than a year. The president, the lower house of Congress, and part of the Senate will be elected. The outcome of such a reset could have a significant political impact. Therefore, the stakes are quite high.

When Biden introduced his draft aid bill for Ukraine, the White House was well aware of the challenges posed by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and therefore, aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, as well as funding for security measures on the border with Mexico. This was supposed to be an argument for Republicans who traditionally support Israel. However, it was more complex.

The struggle in American politics is ongoing

The Republicans have the "Freedom Caucus" with a small number of congressmen. It's small, but it can influence the final decisions. When the speaker was first elected after the congressional elections, the Caucus got a simplified resignation procedure for him. In the end, in the fall, Speaker Kevin McCarthy was dismissed by Democrats and some Republicans at the caucus’s initiative. His successor, Johnson, is under constant threat of removal. "The Caucus is strongly opposed to any aid for Ukraine. One of its leaders in Congress, Marjorie Taylor Green, is known for her anti-Ukrainian stance. She constantly repeats all the theses of Russian propaganda, Including "biolabs" and other garbage. She recently publicly threatened Johnson that if he puts aid to Ukraine in any form to a vote, she will initiate the speaker's resignation.

If such an initiative passes, Johnson will have two bad options. Either he will be dismissed with the votes of the Freedom Caucus and the Democrats. Or the Democrats will not vote for his resignation, but then he will become a traitor to his fellow party members.

Accordingly, since last fall, the Speaker has been doing nothing but playing the fool and stalling on the issue of helping Ukraine. First, he came up with an initiative: to demand a vote in favor of changes in legislation to close the Mexican border as a condition for introducing aid to Ukraine.

The calculation was simple. Johnson and the Republicans thought that the Democrats would simply reject these demands, and they could engage in a round of mutual accusations. They said that the Democrats were thinking more about distant Ukraine than about the problems with illegal immigrants. But surprisingly, the Democrats went to negotiations and began to agree on a compromise solution. It started at the level of the Senate, where the Democrats have a majority, but without the Republicans, such a decision cannot be voted on.

The compromise solution is ready for a vote at the Senate level. Republican senators also support this compromise, arguing it is the best compromise possible.

Then, the Trump factor kicked in. The former president apparently planned to build a campaign around Biden's inability to stop illegal immigrants. Any solution to the problems in this area is not beneficial to him, and he informed the Republican senators about this. The latter found themselves in a difficult position because refusing to make a decision for them personally could be an unpleasant political blow and not be liked by their constituents. But there are better options for them to oppose the actual presidential candidate from their own party.

There is still a chance that the final decision could be voted on in the Senate. However, for it to become law, it must also be voted on in the House of Representatives. The place where Speaker Johnson is and where Marjorie Taylor Green sits. Johnson has already said that this decision is "dead." To clarify this, he put aid to Israel alone on the ballot. It is clear that even if this aid is voted on, Biden has already made it clear that he will not sign it without assistance for Ukraine and Taiwan. So this is just another act of throwing hot potatoes to avoid making any decisions. This time, too, everything will end in mutual accusations, and that's it.

Perhaps we should mention the Trump factor. The former president is the de facto Republican candidate in the election, and according to sociology, he has every chance of winning this election. I would not rush to judgment about Trump's hypothetical "Ukrainian policy." So far, he is not explicitly blocking the aid package for Ukraine, nor is he doing anything to unblock it. However, it is clear that if Trump supported this aid, no Marjorie Taylor Green or Johnson would dare to oppose it.

Trump does not do this, and he is not going to do it. Why? Apparently, he simply does not want to provide any support for any initiatives coming from Biden. He simply believes any assistance to Ukraine now will benefit his political opponents. If you listen to his rhetoric, he is highly cautious and avoids specifics. It seems that he simply does not want the "Ukrainian issue" to have any impact on his electorate. Therefore, he makes the most abstract statements possible. For example, if he had been president, there would have been no war in Ukraine. He would end the war in 24 hours. From such statements, everyone can devise any political line they want. Some will think that Trump will just make a deal with Putin. Of course, at the expense of Ukraine. Some may believe that this is about unheard-of assistance for Ukraine. For Trump, it doesn't matter now; he needs to win the election. He may well believe that later, he will somehow solve everything simply and quickly. But that will be later. What about now?

We see how critical geopolitical issues have become hostage to the election process in the most respected democracy in the world. It's not a given that anything will change significantly if the roles are reversed in the fall and a democratic Congress opposes Trump.

I suspect that members of Congress would behave differently if they thought things were dire. But, they obviously don't. Ukraine is "too" effective in deterring the aggressor. Recently, I read in the American media a Republican congressman who told journalists that all these stories about threats from Russia to Europe are a myth because the Russians, especially in Ukraine, have not made any progress in a year. He does not care what it costs Ukraine. He sees the maps, sees no threats to himself, and is engaged in a typical election campaign.

But if anyone thinks that if Russia does decide to attack Europe, the United States will behave differently, they are probably very much mistaken.

I recently found myself thinking that there is no anti-Russian propaganda in the United States today as such. During the Cold War, everyone watched various Red Dawn and Rambo 2 movies, so no one had any questions about why the Soviets should be fought everywhere and at every opportunity. This is not the case now. Society does not see any problem in Russia. Members of Congress, who are supposed to be liked by the public, see no problem in not making important decisions because they think it will not affect them in any way. The wars are far away. The front lines are "not moving much" there, and they have essential election events to attend.

Of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that they will meet tomorrow and start making decisions, but that is unlikely.

The text is published with the permission of the author.

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