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Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request

The leaders of Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Romania, Britain, the European Commission, the European Council and the NATO joined Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the call

U.S. President Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden makes a statement to the news media ahead of a cabinet meeting at the White House. October 2, 2023.LEAH MILLIS (REUTERS)

President Joe Biden spoke Tuesday with U.S. allies and partners to coordinate future support for Ukraine after Congress passed — and he signed — legislation that kept the U.S. government funded but dropped his request for billions of dollars to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The White House announced that Biden had convened the call but provided no details of the discussion.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said afterward that Biden had assured the group of continued U.S. support for Ukraine and of his strong conviction that Congress will not walk away. “Everyone took the floor. The main subject was Ukraine, the situation in Ukraine,” Duda said at a news conference in Kielce, Poland. “President Joe Biden began with telling us about the situation in the U.S. and what is the real political situation around Ukraine. He assured us that there is backing for the continuing support for Ukraine, first of all for the military support. He said that he will get that backing in the Congress.”

Duda said Biden assured the leaders that support for Ukraine in the U.S. Congress is much broader than media reports suggest. He said Biden called on the participants to continue their support for Ukraine and that everyone assured him that they would. “All of us, leaders, we are determined to continue supporting Ukraine,” said Duda, whose country shares a border with Ukraine.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on social media that it was a “Good call with #NATO leaders hosted by @POTUS,” using the acronym for president of the United States. “As Russia continues its brutal war we are all committed to supporting #Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Stoltenberg pledged.

Others joining Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the call were the leaders of Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Romania, Britain, the European Commission and the European Council. France’s foreign minister also participated, the White House said. French President Emmanuel Macron was not available due to scheduling issues, according to a U.S. administration official.

Officials from the United Kingdom and Italy both said its leaders stressed their continued support for Ukraine as it battles Russia’s invasion, which is now nearing 20 months long. Duda said the leaders also discussed plans for rebuilding Ukraine. “Everyone was saying that this is the next step that will be necessary and for which preparations should begin now,” he said.

Biden had sought in public comments on Sunday, hours after he signed a bill to fund U.S. government operations through mid-November, to reassure allies of continued U.S. financial support for Ukraine’s effort to counter Russia’s military aggression. But he warned that time was running out and urged Congress to negotiate a new aid package quickly.

“We cannot under any circumstances allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said at the White House after Congress averted a government shutdown by passing a short-term funding bill late Saturday that stripped out assistance for Ukraine. “We have time, not much time, and there’s an overwhelming sense of urgency,” Biden said, noting that funding in the bill will run out in mid-November.

“The vast majority of both parties — Democrats and Republicans, Senate and House — support helping Ukraine and the brutal aggression that is being thrust upon them by Russia,” Biden said. “Stop playing games, get this done.’’ But many lawmakers acknowledge that winning approval for Ukraine assistance in Congress is growing as Republican resistance to the aid has gained momentum as the war continues.

While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has begun a process to potentially consider legislation providing additional Ukraine aid, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., faces a more difficult task in keeping the commitment he made over the objections of nearly half of his GOP majority. McCarthy signaled over the weekend that he supports linking new Ukraine funding to security improvements at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The latest actions in Congress signal a gradual shift in the unwavering support that the United States has so far pledged to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and is one of the clearest examples yet of the Republican Party’s movement toward a more isolationist stance.

The exclusion of money for Ukraine came little more than a week after lawmakers met in the Capitol with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He sought to assure them that his military was winning the war, but stressed that additional assistance would be crucial.

Voting in the House last week pointed to the potential trouble ahead. Nearly half of House Republicans voted to cut from a defense spending bill $300 million to train Ukrainian soldiers and buy weapons. The money later was approved separately, but opponents of Ukraine support celebrated their growing numbers.

The U.S. has approved four rounds of aid to Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, totaling about $113 billion, with some of that money going toward replenishment of U.S. military equipment that was sent to the front lines. In August, Biden called on Congress to provide for an additional $24 billion.

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