As Biden Urges Aid, Both Russia and Ukraine Expect U.S. Role to Continue

By John Mercury October 4, 2023

Russian and Ukrainian officials voiced a rare note of agreement on Monday, with both sides playing down the significance of a U.S. government spending bill that lacked new aid for Kyiv.

The absence of more Ukraine funding in the stopgap bill — which passed late Saturday, allowing Washington to narrowly avert a shutdown of the federal government — reflected diminishing appetite in some corners of the Republican Party to continue funding Kyiv’s war effort.

But Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, said on Monday that he did not expect U.S. support for Ukraine to change, calling the congressional negotiations “nonsense” and “just a performance for the public.”

“Interparty squabbles are one thing, and support is another thing,” he told reporters. “They will find the money.”

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said that he expected that “America will continue its involvement in this conflict,” but predicted that “exhaustion” over the conflict would mount in the United States and other countries.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, suggested that the lack of Ukraine funding in the bill was an “individual case” as a shutdown loomed, not a “systemic” change in the level of U.S. aid.

“We do not believe that U.S. support has faltered,” Mr. Kuleba said at a news conference in Kyiv, according to local news media reports. He added that the Ukrainian government was in “deep discussions” with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

The stopgap bill continues Ukraine funding at current levels for 45 days and will not immediately affect the pipeline of already committed U.S. military aid. The Pentagon still has the authority to draw about $5.6 billion in arms and equipment from existing stockpiles.

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, told reporters on Monday that another such drawdown of weapons, ammunition and equipment is expected in the coming days.

But he said that two programs that provide longer-term military support for Ukraine — the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and Foreign Military Financing program — have been suspended and cannot be extended without further action by Congress.

Mr. Miller said that the Biden administration was “calling on Congress to to fully fund our request to support Ukraine’s short- and long-term security assistance, and also to allow the Pentagon to refill depleted Pentagon stocks, which is something that they’re not able to do without further action.”

Members of both U.S. political parties have expressed confidence that agreements on further financial commitments for Ukraine will come in the weeks ahead. The Biden administration has also been in touch with allies abroad to reassure them that the United States remains committed to supporting Ukraine, according to a senior official, who requested anonymity to discuss private diplomatic conversations.

White House officials declined to say whether President Biden himself intended to make calls to his counterparts in other countries, but a second senior administration official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said such calls from the president were likely.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that Mr. Biden had repeatedly talked to the leaders of other countries in the past about supporting Ukraine.

“The president, as you know, was able to bring more than 50 countries together to show their support for Ukraine as our partners and allies,” she told reporters, adding that the NATO alliance “is as strong as it’s ever been, and so that commitment is going to continue.”

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