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US election unlikely to jeopardize aid to Ukraine, for now

by Igor KossovNovember 10, 2022 8:39 pm
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US election unlikely to jeopardize aid to Ukraine, for nowU.S. President Joe Biden takes questions from reporters, after he delivered remarks in the State Dining Room, at the White House on Nov. 9, 2022 in Washington, DC. Biden spoke about the mid-term elections, control of the House and Senate in 2023, and the administration's achievements during the past two years of office. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

If Moscow was hoping the U.S. midterm elections would sway military aid to Ukraine, it’s likely to be disappointed. 

Helping Ukraine fight off Russia continues to have support from both main parties in Washington, analysts said. 

“Support for Ukraine is a bipartisan position supported by the vast majority of members in the House, in the Senate, on both sides of the aisle,” said Scott Cullinane, a former Congressional aide. 

Moreover, the “red wave” of Republican victories, expected by many media outlets and former U.S. President Donald Trump, failed to materialize. The Democrats did surprisingly well — better than incumbent parties have done in midterm elections in the past several decades.  

As of Nov. 10, Republicans lost one senate seat while the Democrats gained one. In the House, the Democrats lost just eight seats, while the Republicans gained six. 

"We lost fewer seats in the House of Representatives than any Democratic president's first midterm election in at least 40 years," U.S. President Joe Biden said.

The pro-Trump wing of the Republican party, which is skeptical of Ukraine aid and more amenable to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has not done well in the election. 

Multiple Trump-backed candidates lost their races. Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at St. Andrew’s University in the U.K., pointed out that the pro-Ukraine wing of the Republican party is looking stronger. 

“In many cases, those candidates who were vocally anti-Ukrainian or skeptical of supporting it ultimately did not win,” agreed Cullinane. “Many people who support Ukraine are going to be in the new Congress.”

A key exception is Ohio, where retiring Republican senator Rob Portman, co-founder of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, was replaced by J.D. Vance, a Trump-backed candidate. Vance joined Trump in expressing skepticism toward U.S. military aid. 

The red wave’s anticlimax may be bad news for Trump, who was hoping to use the momentum to announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election. Instead, he may be taking some blame for the Republicans’ worse-than-expected performance, Cullinane said. This may accelerate the party’s move away from him. 

Ukrainian officials were watching the election with trepidation, worried that the results could jeopardize continued aid at a critical time when Ukraine has begun to turn the tide against the Russian onslaught.  

Multiple members of the Republican party have made statements skeptical of continued support of Ukraine. 

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy said that his fellow party members are "not going to write a blank check to Ukraine." Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told a Trump rally that “under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine.”

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that 48% of Republicans believe the country is sending too much aid to Ukraine.

Furthermore, Moscow has famously been found to have meddled in the 2016 presidential election. While Trump himself was vindicated, many in his orbit were convicted of lying to the Feds, and multiple Russian individuals and organizations were convicted of interference. 

Putin's key asset, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, head of the infamous Russian mercenary company Wagner Group, stated "We have interfered (in US elections), we are interfering and we will continue to interfere."

Trump’s view of Russia passed to some of his followers. 

“Led by Trump, a significant portion of the GOP has become pro-Putin. In part, they are just following Trump’s lead. But it is also part of a general move of the GOP towards an authoritarian model of governance,” said Joseph Cirincirone, a national security expert who worked at four think tanks in Washington.

Some Russian commentators expressed hope that Republican victory would make it "more difficult to push financial aid programs to Kyiv through Congress," as Russian senator Alexei Pushkov wrote on Telegram.

But even before the election, multiple Republicans took to the airwaves to reassure everyone that they are just as committed to helping Ukraine.

Senators Tom Cotton and Rick Scott said the U.S. will continue to support Ukraine militarily, even in the new congress. Cotton said he acknowledged there may be a "slight change in the way aid is assigned" but does not expect the will to provide support to waver.

Even Senator Mitch McConnell, once derided by his critics as "Moscow Mitch," called for more weapons and humanitarian aid for Ukraine in late October. 

Oxana Shevel, a professor of political science at Tufts University, agreed that the balance of power in the GOP has somewhat shifted away from the Trump faction towards more mainstream Republicans, who have supported continuing to aid Ukraine.

However, the extra Republican seats in the House could lead to more squabbles with Biden, which may draw attention away from the subject of Ukraine, she added. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party has oscillated on military aid as well.

On the other hand, Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield using American weapons inspire confidence that continued military aid is worth it, analysts said. The U.S. election is unlikely to jeopardize aid to Ukraine, for now.

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Note from the author:

Hi, this is Igor Kossov, I hope you enjoyed reading my article. 

I consider it a privilege to keep you informed about one of this century's greatest tragedies, Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. With the help of my colleagues, I will continue to bring you in-depth insights into Ukraine's war effort, its international impacts, and the economic, social, and human cost of this war. But I cannot do it without your help. 

Tomorrow, Nov. 11, is the Kyiv Independent's one-year anniversary. To support independent Ukrainian journalists, please consider becoming our patron. Thank you very much.

Igor Kossov
Igor Kossov
Reporter

Igor is a reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He has previously covered conflict in the Middle East, investigated corruption in Ukraine and man-made environmental damage in Southeast Asia. He has a Master’s in Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and was published in the Kyiv Post, USA Today, The Atlantic, Daily Beast and Foreign Policy.

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