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CIA director: Failing to pass Ukraine aid would be mistake 'of historic proportions'

by Dmytro Basmat January 31, 2024 3:05 AM 2 min read
CIA Director William Burns depart from the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 30, 2024 in Washington, DC following a briefing on Ukraine, Israel and the Middle East for the House Intelligence Committee and House Leadership. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
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Failing to provide Ukraine with adequate military aid would mark a mistake "of historic proportions" for Western allies, CIA Director William Burns wrote in a column for Foreign Affairs Magazine on Jan. 30.

"The key to success lies in preserving Western aid for Ukraine," Burns wrote. "For the United States to walk away from the conflict at this crucial moment and cut off support to Ukraine would be an own goal of historic proportions."

Burns' comments come as some lawmakers in both the United States and the European Union continue to hold up military aid funding for Ukraine.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate previously blocked a funding bill that included $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, insisting that any further military aid must include major significant domestic border changes. While in December, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban vetoed a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) aid package from the EU.

Progress has been made in attempting to securing support for additional military funding but the fate of both aid packages remains uncertain.

In a deal that is expected to be unveiled as early as next week, U.S. Senate negotiators have agreed on a deal that significantly restricts illegal migrant crossings at the southern border while also unblocking assistance for Ukraine.

The bill is likely to face stiff opposition in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Mike Johnson reportedly warned it would be "dead on arrival."

Hungary has also begrudgingly signaled its willingness to drop its opposition to a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) aid package if concessions be made for the EU to review the funding package on a yearly basis.

Still, some EU countries have expressed skepticism at the proposal, insisting Hungary would block the funding year-over-year while seeking further concessions. A special summit of the European Council will be held on Feb. 1 to further discuss funding.

Burns opined that the distribution of arms to Ukraine will put the country in a better position to negotiate its own fate, ensuring "a long-term win for Ukraine and a strategic loss for Russia."

"Ukraine could safeguard its sovereignty and rebuild, while Russia would be left to deal with the enduring costs of Putin’s folly."

The CIA director, serving as the agency's chief under the Biden administration since 2021, last visited Ukraine in January 2023, briefing President Volodymyr Zelensky on Russian military strategy.

At the time, Burns held discussion with Ukrainian officials as to how long Ukraine could count on continued aid from the U.S. after the Republicans won the majority in the House of Representatives.

Orban says he is willing to compromise on $54 billion Ukraine aid package
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Hungary had sent a compromise offer. The counter-proposal, which Orban considered to be the result of EU “blackmail,” would require the aid package to be reviewed on a yearly basis.
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