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Ukraine war latest: Republicans block aid to Ukraine, Kirby says funds to run out before New Year

by The Kyiv Independent news desk December 8, 2023 12:55 AM 7 min read
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 7, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Key developments on Dec. 7:

  • Senate GOP blocks Ukraine funding bill from advancing
  • Study: Aid for Ukraine drops to lowest level since January 2022
  • White House announces plans to strengthen defense cooperation with Ukraine
  • Reuters: Ukraine requests US air defense systems, fighter jets
  • ISW: Russia makes limited advance in Avdiivka's industrial zone
  • Russian attacks kill 1, injure 11 over past day

Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a supplemental funding bill that included aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan in a procedural vote held Dec. 6.

The funding package includes $61 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Funding for Ukraine has become a source of controversy among U.S. lawmakers in recent months, bringing the government to the brink of a shutdown.

Sixty votes were needed to take up and advance the bill on Dec. 6, but the Senate voted against it in a 49-51 vote, with all Republicans opposing the legislation.

Republicans argued that the foreign aid legislation must be paired with significant domestic border security reforms, and they did not deem the current bill satisfactory.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer offered Senate Republicans the opportunity to propose an amendment to the bill, but no action has been taken yet.

Schumer accused the Senate GOP of “hostage-taking.”

“If Republicans are unable to produce a broadly bipartisan immigration proposal, they should not block aid to Ukraine in response,” Schumer said.

Ahead of the vote, President Joe Biden emphasized the urgency of passing the funding bill, as aid is set to potentially run out in the coming weeks. He strongly encouraged Congress to pass the bill before the holiday recess.

On Dec. 7, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that the window to pass the bill "is definitely getting smaller."

"The runway is getting shorter and shorter, and we’ve got, basically, until the end of this month," Kirby said.

"We risk giving (Russian President Vladimir) Putin the greatest gift — the greatest gift right now," he added.

US domestic political turmoil threatens to undermine support for Ukraine
The Republican party has increasingly soured on continuing to support Ukraine, often citing economic reasons. However, what ultimately doomed the Dec. 6 vote was the mixing of U.S. aid to Ukraine with other political issues, namely domestic border security and the U.S. aid for longtime ally Israel.

Study: Aid for Ukraine drops to lowest level since January 2022

Between August and October, the amount of newly committed aid to Ukraine decreased by 87% compared to the same period last year, according to a new study by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel).

The value of aid packages announced throughout these months totalled 2.11 billion euros (around $2.2 billion), the lowest level since January 2022, the study results showed.

The report was published on Dec. 7 amid increasing uncertainty over the U.S.'s further assistance to Ukraine and delays in the European Union's approval of a $50 billion package for Kyiv, opposed by Hungary and Slovakia.

Of the 42 donors tracked by the IfW Kiel, only 20 have pledged new aid packages to Ukraine over the last three months, which the institute called the smallest share of active donors since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion.

The U.S. remains Ukraine's largest military contributor, with a total volume reaching over $47 billion, the IfW Kiel wrote. However, Germany is reportedly catching up fast, having committed around $18 billion in military aid for Ukraine.

When focusing on committed military aid, the European Union countries continue to catch up, and now have collectively surpassed the U.S.

Of the total $26.9 billion pledged for heavy weapons from January 2022 to October 2023, the U.S. accounts for 43%, while all EU countries and institutions combined account for 47%, according to the IfW Kiel.

Despite Republican hesitance on Ukraine aid, red states reap economic benefits
Amid signs of a growing reluctance among U.S. Republicans to continue aid for Ukraine, proponents have been trying a new narrative – highlighting that a considerable amount of the money the U.S. spends actually goes toward the domestic defense industry, funneling jobs and investments back to the U.S…

White House announces plans to strengthen defense cooperation with Ukraine

The White House announced plans to strengthen "cooperation and co-production" between the U.S. and Ukraine's Defense Industrial Bases following the first day of meetings of the U.S.-Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 6.

The U.S.-Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference convened more than 350 U.S., Ukrainian, and European industry and government representatives to enhance collaboration and production between U.S. and Ukrainian defense companies and increase overall weapons production.

According to the White House statement, the U.S. State Department plans "to send an advisor to the Ministry of Strategic Industries of Ukraine to support and accelerate Ukraine's transition to an interoperable military force, combat corruption, and attract foreign investment in critical industries."

Yermak, Umerov, Stefanchuk meet with top US security officials in DC
The officials met as part of the U.S.-Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference, which aims to enhance collaboration and production between U.S. and Ukrainian defense companies and increase overall weapons production.

Reuters: Ukraine requests US air defense systems, fighter jets

Ukraine's most recent weapons request includes U.S. air defense systems, F-18 "Hornet" fighter jets, drones, and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, according to documents seen by Reuters journalists on Dec. 6.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry reportedly presented a "list of armaments to meet the needs of defense forces of Ukraine" during a closed-door session of the U.S.-Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

Ukraine also listed some weapons it already holds in stock such as Abrams tanks and 155-millimeter artillery, as well as some weaponry such as F-16s, drones, and long-range ATACMS missiles that it requested in the past.

According to Reuters, the list also included some surprise items such as the C-17 Globemaster transport jets and Apache attack helicopters made by Boeing and the C-130 Super Hercules and Black Hawk helicopter made by Lockheed Martin.

The list continues with requests for F-18 "Hornet" fighter jets, three types of drones made by General Atomics, including the MQ-9B Sky Guardian, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) air defense system made by Lockheed.

Francis Farrell: Ukraine could still lose the war. Let’s get some things straight
This November has been a particularly grim one here in Ukraine. Over the past month, two media sensations in big Western magazines served as a sober wake-up call about the state of the war. First, Simon Shuster’s profile in TIME magazine on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “lonely fight”

ISW: Russia makes limited advance in Avdiivka's industrial zone

Russian forces "marginally advanced" in the industrial zone southeast of the besieged Donetsk Oblast town of Avdiivka, the U.S.-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest report on Dec. 6.

Russia has intensified its attacks against Avdiivka, a front-line town at the doorstep of occupied Donetsk, since early October, seeking to encircle the settlement in a costly campaign.

Geolocated footage from Dec. 6 had confirmed that Russian offensive operations achieved limited success in the industrial zone, the ISW said.

Ukrainian forces counterattacked near Avdiivka the same day, and geolocated footage from Dec. 5 had confirmed some Ukrainian advances in the embattled Stepove on Avdiivka's northern flank, the ISW said.

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in its morning report on Dec. 6 that Ukrainian defenders repelled 25 attacks against Avdiivka and its flanks.

The following day, the number of Russian attacks repelled in the area rose to 34, the General Staff said.

The attacks on Avdiivka, the gateway to occupied Donetsk, have been very costly for Moscow.

According to the Ukrainian military, Russian forces lost around 10,000 soldiers, more than 100 tanks, over 250 other armored vehicles, and seven Su-25 aircraft in the first month of fighting near the front-line town.

The U.K. Defense Ministry said on Nov. 27 that Russia likely suffered "some of the highest" casualty rates in the previous six weeks, mainly due to the Avdiivka campaign.

Ukraine holds back Russian assault on Avdiivka as long winter battle looms
“Our working hours are as follows: first you do a 12-hour shift, then another one, until you’ve done seven of these 24-hour-shifts, and that’s your week” said Oleksandr Kolesnikov, a 47-year-old surgeon, sitting hunched over on a bench-turned-overflow hospital bed at a Ukrainian sta…
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