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US lagging behind Europe As Britain And The EU commit To Further Aid For Ukraine

Last week, all 27 EU leaders agreed to provide Ukraine with a €50 billion support package after Hungary stopped blocking the deal.


Hungarian President Victor Orban has been a consistent critic of Western support for Ukraine and has often questioned the commitment of funds to Kyiv. Of chief concern to President Orban has been the rights of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine. For this reason, the upholding of the rights of ethnic minorities is a precondition of the EU support package.


Before agreeing to the support package, Orban was accused of extortion by other leaders, including Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, for attempting to obtain concessions from the EU. Orban is angry at the European Commission’s decision to block funding to Hungary over concerns regarding the academy, rule of law, and human rights in the country.


Hungarian opportunism has caused problems, not only in the EU but also in NATO, where Orban has previously sought to block high-level talks with Ukraine.


With Orban deciding not to veto the aid to Ukraine, however, all 27 EU leaders have been united in their opposition to Russian aggression. In particular, French President Macron has been especially strong in his language, condemning Russia and stressing the importance of aid to Ukraine. In a speech to Karlberg Military, he argued that the EU will have to “accelerate the scale” of its support.


That the "costs... of a Russian victory are too high for all of us."


This marks a change of tone from Macron, who has previously criticised Nato as being “brain dead” and called for Russia to be given security guarantees in the case of peace negotiations. Leading up to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Macron stressed the importance of dialogue with Russia and has since then argued that the EU must start its own dialogue with Russia over Ukraine.


According to Ukraine’s economic ministry, the support package is expected to arrive in March of this year.


The EU support package comes at a crucial juncture for the war in Ukraine, with the Kyiv regime struggling to pay for pensions and state salaries. Much of the aid being promised will not go to the front line but will instead replenish the budget revenue for Kyiv, which has had to spend huge amounts of money on defence since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion almost two years ago.


Prior to the announcement of the EU package, the British government had committed £2.5 billion to Ukraine over the next year, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak flying out to Kyiv in January in a show of support. This is the largest support package the UK has delivered to Ukraine to date and will pay for long-range missiles, artillery, air defence, maritime security, and ammunition, as well as thousands of drones.


The message of Sunak was clear: “We are not walking away... Only a Ukrainian victory will deter Putin from attacking others in the future," he said.


While support for Ukraine in Europe might be strong, in the US, Ukraine’s largest military aid sponsor, support for Ukraine has been somewhat lacking. Since last year, an emergency $60 billion of future security funding has been held up by the Republican-controlled Congress.


Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the US has provided $44.9 billion in security assistance, so $60 billion in additional funding is on a whole other level than what has previously been provided for Kyiv. Faced with political deadlock over aid, there is a growing perception that the US is running out of time to provide Ukraine with the vital aid it needs.


The political warfare taking place over aid to Ukraine both in the US and Europe demonstrates the somewhat unique nature of the Ukraine conflict. Unlike previous conflicts in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine is being shaped largely by political conditions in the West. In the US, for example, Biden’s support package for Ukraine is being held up by Republicans determined to include major border policy changes in the bill.


This has led to US top diplomat Antony Blinken warning that Ukraine is “in jeopardy” without new US aid.


“Without it," he said, "simply put, everything that Ukrainians have achieved and that we’ve helped them achieve will be in jeopardy.”.


While the US is currently crucial for the security of both Ukraine and NATO, there has been a tilt away from Europe as a military priority over the past decade. Former president and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has previously expressed frustration that other NATO countries are not meeting the 2 percent military spending target. Recently, he caused controversy by stating, "We're spending—we're paying for Nato, and we don’t get so much out of it.”


It is somewhat ironic that the European Union, judged to be somewhat lacking in response to Russian aggression in the past, has this year been quicker in giving aid to Ukraine than the US, which seems to be dragging its feet over the issue of aid. Should Trump be elected president in this year’s election,  it is likely that the US will continue to soften its stance on Russia, perhaps by cutting military aid or by pressuring Ukraine to secede its lost territory.


In the past, Trump has criticised the amount of aid going to Ukraine and said he would end the war in 24 hours.


When pressed on the issue of aid at a CNN-hosted town hall event, he said, "We don't have ammunition for ourselves. We're giving away so much.”


Nevertheless, with Joe Biden still in the White House, a strengthening of European support for Ukraine will put pressure on the US to do more.

With the US increasingly less interested in European security, it may be that we are currently seeing the beginnings of an informal security arrangement, with the US prioritising its own national security interests and Europe likewise taking more responsibility for its own defence. Whether the sluggish pace of US aid to Ukraine represents a more serious security realignment, however, remains to be seen.

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