Ukraine finds itself caught in the middle as Republicans squabbled over whether to support military funding and their own House speaker.
The future of US funding for Ukraine’s war effort has been put under threat because of a remarkable row which led to the ejection of the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Aid for Ukraine has been a source of tension and uncertainty as several Republicans in the House have severe doubts or openly oppose additional funding to sustain the Ukrainian military.
And now, as a result of the speaker losing a vote on his position, there can be no progress on funding – or, indeed, anything else – until a new one is appointed.
Speaking to Euronews, retired army officer Fred Wellman, who was in Washington DC with progressive political group VoteVets, said the situation was “concerning”.
Wellman served in the second Gulf War and deployed multiple times in Afghanistan and Iraq – and has been a vocal supporter of veteran’s rights – as well as advocating continued military assistance and aid money to Ukraine.
“There is large bipartisan support for supporting Ukraine,” Wellman told Euronews, but on the Republicans, added “the question is can they get a clean bill, can they disconnect it from the more extreme members of the party?”
“This is the Republicans’ fault,” explained Wellman, who attended administration briefings this week on the current situation in DC regarding aid for Ukraine.
“The situation we face right now is the concentrated effort by Putin and his allies and disinformation networks to convince the American people and the west not to support Ukraine and the defence of their democracy. I blame the MAGA Republicans for this outrageous behaviour and audacity to support the malign influences of Vladimir Putin.”
“We’re going to have to keep fighting, keep pushing, keep demanding Congress act, keep supporting our allies in Ukraine as they fight for freedom,” he added.
However, he said he was “slightly optimistic” that the US would continue to support Ukraine and its allies.
What’s the background to this political crisis?
On Tuesday evening US Speaker Kevin McCarthy lost his role after eight critical Republicans and all the Democrat members voted against him.
Prior to this, a US government shutdown had been narrowly avoided in a new funding agreement, but only after further military funding for Ukraine was excluded.
The president, as well as congressional Democratic leaders, had stressed that they had expected McCarthy to follow through on his public commitment to Ukraine aid.
President Joe Biden gathered other world powers together on Tuesday to co-ordinate on Ukraine just as the situation degenerated.
All the countries that participated in the call stressed that their backing of Ukraine remains unchanged, and no one questioned whether US support of Kyiv was in doubt, according to the White House.
However, the administration sternly warned that Congress must not let the flow of aid be disrupted.
“Time is not our friend,” said John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House. He warned that any gaps in US support “will make Putin believe he can wait us out.”
Kirby said the current tranche of congressionally-approved US aid would be enough to help Ukraine for another “couple of weeks” or a “couple of months,” although the precise estimate would hinge on current battlefield conditions.
Kirby emphasised that other House Republican leaders support Ukraine aid, not just McCarthy himself.
On Wednesday, Biden suggested he may have a back-up plan in mind should Congress continue to be unhelpful.
“There is another means by which we may be able to find funding, but I’m not going to get into that right now,” he said.
Prior to Biden’s comments, lawmakers and military veterans rallied to make their own call to keep up the funding.
Many argued stopping US support to Ukraine would embolden Russia and other rivals to invade other democratic allies after Ukraine, and draw US forces into direct conflict.
Retired Brigadeer General Mark Arnold, a veteran of the special forces, said “the world is watching this debate about abandoning Ukraine.”
“Retreats to isolationism do not work,” Arnold said. China and Russia and other adversaries “will all rise in strength if Ukraine is defeated.”