President Joe Biden laid out his case for providing tens of billions of dollars worth of military aid to Ukraine and Israel during a rare Oval Office address on Thursday, in which he attempted to draw a direct link between the conflicts engulfing both countries.
“Hamas and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin represent different threats. But they share this in common: they both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy,” Biden said.
The address kicks off an aggressive push by the Biden administration to convince Congress to pass its proposed aid package for the two nations at a moment when political divisions threaten the bipartisan action needed to do so.
“It’s a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations,” Biden said of the assistance request, which his administration is expected to detail on Friday. “I know we have our divisions at home. We have to get past them. We can’t let petty, partisan, angry politics get in the way of our responsibilities as a great nation. We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win. I refuse to let that happen.”
Biden has faced criticism from some corners for failing to make a better case for why aiding Ukraine is in the U.S. national interest, amid signs of declining support for the war effort particularly among Republican voters and lawmakers. The U.S. has approved over $100 billion in security, economic, and humanitarian support for Ukraine in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
The White House is expected to ask Congress for as much as $100 billion in new funding to cover aid to Israel and Ukraine, in addition to funding for border security and assistance to Taiwan.
The proposal will set off a struggle in Congress, where conservative resistance to Ukraine aid and the lack of a House speaker will complicate the path forward for the legislation. The White House previously asked lawmakers to approve $24 billion in Ukraine aid to cover Kyiv through the end of the year, but the funding was left out of a short-term spending bill approved late last month.
Ukraine supporters believe that combining Ukraine aid with other proposals that have broader support will help get it across the finish line.
“I think it does help because nobody wants to vote against funding for Israel or border security or threatening China,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Tex., one of the more vocal GOP proponents for Ukraine aid in the House, told reporters Wednesday.
McCaul, who predicted the package would pass the House, suggested Republicans would also try to add a new inspector general for Ukraine funding to increase accountability of funds supporting Kyiv’s war effort.
Given the House’s current state of paralysis, the Senate is likely to take up Biden’s package first. There is more Republican support for Ukraine assistance in the upper chamber, but that doesn’t mean that the path forward will be without hiccups.
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kans. posted on X that “using the war in Israel as a leverage point to squeeze more Ukraine dollars is a non-starter.” Any one senator could hold up the bill.
Linking Ukraine and Israel might make sense as a short-term legislative strategy, but they are fundamentally two very different wars. And longer term, it will prove harder for Biden to keep up support for Ukraine than for Israel. For the latter, support is overwhelming and the only opposition to military aid is likely to come from a few vocal members of Biden’s own party. The Israel-Hamas conflict is also a much newer war, and one that may well end before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Even with recent strikes of Russian airpower using U.S.-made ATACMS, the Ukrainians have made slow progress in the counteroffensive, and officials are bracing for a drawn-out war that will require years more of support.
“I think everyone is now planning for a long war,” a senior European diplomat told me and a group of reporters in Washington. “I think everyone sees that Putin is not going to be ready to stop within a year.”
Biden also didn’t do much to lay out the endgame for the war in Ukraine, beyond alluding to U.S. support helping Kyiv “push invading Russian forces off their land.”
Room for Disagreement
The White House continues to project confidence, publicly and in private conversations, that Congress will approve more assistance for Kyiv. There is still sizable bipartisan support for Ukraine aid, even as the number of House Republicans opposed to approving more climbs in the House.
“They were quite optimistic that the package for Ukraine will be passed,” the European diplomat said.
The View From Fox
Biden’s address received praise from some unexpected corners. Fox News’ Brit Hume called it “one of the best, if not the best speeches of his presidency.” He commended Biden for arguing that rolling back U.S. support for Kyiv would send the wrong message to other “evildoers” in the world. The remarks were quickly clipped and shared by the Biden campaign.
- The Pentagon is grappling with maintaining U.S. stockpiles and sending weapons to both Ukraine and Israel. Politico reports that the Pentagon has formed a new team to scour U.S. supplies in order to quickly supply Israel with ammunition.
- Biden spoke at a precarious moment for the globe. As Israel prepared to mount a ground offensive in Gaza, a U.S. warship intercepted missiles off the coast of Yemen said to be fired by Iran-backed militants. The State Department on Thursday issued a rare worldwide alert telling Americans abroad to be extra cautious due to “increased tensions in various locations around the world.”