Impasse on Capitol Hill throws US support for Ukraine into doubt

The US Senate yesterday rejected sprawling legislation that would have sent military aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. The senators who voted against the bill largely did so for domestic political reasons.

Many lawmakers say they still want to send the aid, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated he’ll introduce a more streamlined bill worth $95B that would include:

  • $60B in military aid for Ukraine
  • $14.1B in security assistance for Israel
  • $9.15B for humanitarian purposes
  • $2.44B to support US military operations in the Red Sea, and
  • $4.83B for US allies in the Pacific “to deter aggression by the Chinese government“.

Punchbowl News reported yesterday that a ‘clean’ foreign aid bill might get enough support to pass the Senate, and there’s also a potential path forward in the House of Representatives.

That sounds like a whole lot of equivocating, but in a presidential election year, that’s about as much certainty as we’re likely to get.

Meanwhile, Europe says it will step up its support for Ukraine

Last year, the EU promised to send one million shells to Ukraine by March 2024. As of late 2023, it had provided only ~330,000. The EU is expected to deliver only about half of the originally promised shells by next month’s deadline.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell blamed the EU’s slow deliveries on supply chain problems and an overall lack of investment in defence manufacturing due to complacency during the relatively peaceful post-Cold War years.

Nevertheless,Borrell yesterdaycommitted the EU to giving Ukraine 1,155,000 artillery shells by the end of 2024.

The EU also agreed last week to send Ukraine $54B of budgetary help (which is separate from military aid).

What does all this mean for Ukraine?

The New York Times reported that the Ukrainian army is now “critically short of ammunition” as “mortar crews are forced to ration artillery shells” as they are “almost exclusively engaged in defensive operations”. While the war remains a stalemate, Russia is doing most of the attacking.

Further afield, a video released Monday shows Ukrainian special forces fighting Russia-aligned mercenaries in the Sudanese civil war. The troops’ presence so far from home is likely part of Ukraine’s strategy of using relatively ‘cheap’ special operations to score propaganda victories and demonstrate that its forces can hit Russia anytime, anywhere.

Back in Kyiv, a bill to draft as many as 500,000 troops is under debate in the Ukrainian Parliament and President Zelensky is said to be considering a major shake-up of government officials.

There’s also speculation that the Ukrainian Ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, will be elevated to a senior position in Kyiv thanks to her close ties with the Biden administration.


Seen in the cold light of geopolitical day, sending military support to Ukraine has helped the West stress test its war machine.

For example, most of the $60B in Schumer’s proposed bill won’t leave the US – it’ll go to the Pentagon to buy brand new weapons from US defence manufacturers to refill the older stock that has been sent to Ukraine.

And one imagines European defence strategists are thankful that their military manufacturing and supply chain issues have come to light now in Eastern Ukraine rather than later and much closer to home.

Of course, none of that is any comfort to Ukraine as it stares down the barrel of Russia’s invasion entering its third year.

Also worth noting:

  • The Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Amir Ohana, is in D.C. taking meetings on Capitol Hill this week. The Israeli Embassy will no doubt be furnishing him with talking points to persuade US lawmakers to pass the military aid bill.
  • EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell took refuge in a bomb shelter in Kyiv on Wednesday morning as Russian drone and missile strikes killed five and injured at least 50.
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