Will The US Ditch Ukraine If Republicans Take Congress?

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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  • Republicans have a shot at achieving a majority in the House and Senate after the 2022 midterm elections on Nov. 8.
  • While Republican leaders have consistently spoken and voted in support of more weapons transfers and financial assistance to Ukraine, new GOP congressmembers could restrain their support, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “Those questions would definitely steer what ultimately Congress decides to do when it comes to Ukraine,” Heritage Action Vice President Garrett Bess explained to the DCNF.

Support for Ukraine isn’t likely to disappear if Republicans become the dominant lawmaking force in Congress after the midterms, but it could face constraints from new congressmembers, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

U.S. support for Ukraine could dip if the GOP achieves a majority in the House and Senate after the Nov. 8 midterm elections, a possibility analysts see as increasingly on the table, as Republicans have been more willing than their Democratic counterparts in Congress to express skepticism about the logic behind weapons transfers, according to Axios. In recent weeks Republican leaders have doubled down on their stance in support for Ukraine, according to multiple reports, but junior politicians on the Hill could restrain U.S. policy in the future, experts said.

“Polling shows that the American people are increasingly skeptical of open-ended commitments to Ukraine and want our European allies to take the lead in supporting Ukraine,” Dan Caldwell, vice president for foreign policy at Stand Together, told the DCNF. Should a GOP-led Congress opt to shave off key facets of existing support for Ukraine, they would not receive much political backlash, he said.

“In terms of actual voting behavior among GOP voters it’s worth noting that Joe Kent, Blake Masters, J.D. Vance and Katie Britt won contested primaries after opposing open-ended aid commitments to Ukraine or attacking their opponents for being more hawkish on Ukraine,” Caldwell said in a separate statement.

The U.S. has disbursed a total of $16.8 billion to Ukraine since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. But some Republicans have decried the apparent open checkbook the U.S. has offered to Ukraine: Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri called the assistance “not in America’s interests,” and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgie alleged in October the billions in U.S. funding only served to perpetuate war with Russia.

In May, 11 Senate Republicans and 57 in the House voted against a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine over the concern it did not contain enough safeguards against misappropriation. (RELATED: Top Democrat Retracts Ukraine Letter, Blames Staff)

“We have a lot of issues going on here home, particularly the economy, and we need to get that fixed first,” Heritage Action Vice President Garrett Bess told the DCNF. “But I don’t think that that would foreclose on conservative Americans being willing to go along with some assistance for Ukraine.”

However, Republican voters consistently fall lower than Democrats in the polls in willingness to support Ukraine.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll from Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 found that 66% of Republicans were in favor of continuing support for Ukraine compared to 81% of Democrats, as Russia’s rhetoric around nuclear use escalated. An August poll from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs likewise showed majority Republican support for Ukraine, this time recording 68% of GOP voters directly in favor of sending more weapons to Ukraine compared to 79% of Democrats.

However, a September poll from the Pew research group recorded a decrease in the percentage of Republicans who felt the U.S. should provide more support, with 32% of Republicans saying the U.S. was in fact providing too much compared to 9% in March.

Meanwhile, Republicans have a legitimate shot flipping both the House and the Senate, according to recent polling. This has European leaders and analysts concerned that a Republican majority could signal a reduction in military and financial support, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

“If America starts to blink, other nations might as well,” Tobias Ellwood, chair of the U.K. Parliament’s defense committee, told the Post, warning that a decrease in U.S. assistance would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.”

“I support making sure that we move forward to defeat Russia in that program, but there should be no blank check on anything,” McCarthy told CNBC days after receiving pushback from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for his remarks that under a GOP-led House the U.S. would no longer sign “blank checks” for Ukraine.

McCarthy’s press team declined to provide further details on the representative’s position regarding Ukraine in the event of a Republican majority.

Bess called McCarthy’s comments “a good indicator of where at least House Republicans are trending” and speculated that Senate GOP members would follow in the House’s footsteps.

Ukrainian officials expressed “shock” over McCarthy’s statement, telling the Financial Times the congressman had just weeks prior assured them of sustained bipartisan support after the midterms.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has made it clear that he will continue to back significant arms transfers in spite of dwindling support among the GOP base for using American tax dollars to help Ukraine fend off Russian forces. In a statement on Oct. 21, the Senate Republican leader urged the Biden administration to “be quicker and more proactive” in supporting Ukraine.

“A Republican majority in the Senate will focus its oversight on ensuring timely delivery of needed weapons and greater allied assistance to Ukraine,” McConnell added.

Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, currently the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that a majority of Republicans approved of continuing the U.S. policy of arms transfers and financial assistance but would prefer to see more effort put into ensuring deliveries were put to their intended use, according to the FT.

In addition, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in June and has acted in concert with his Democratic counterparts to maintain pressure on Russia through actions such as weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

Conservative Americans will pressure their delegates in Congress to address economic issues, but not at the expense of supporting Ukraine, Bess explained to the DCNF. In addition, novice congressmembers who lack experience in the workings of Capitol Hill may ask questions that closer reflect the sentiments of their constituents.

“Those questions would definitely steer what ultimately Congress decides to do when it comes to Ukraine,” said Bess.

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