Lawmakers are wrangling over another $25 billion for Kiev as they aim to avert a government shutdown
FILE PHOTO: US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby © AP / Susan Walsh
The Pentagon will only be able to support Ukraine’s war effort for a “few weeks” should Congress fail to pass a new funding bill, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has claimed.
Speaking to CNN for an interview published on Monday, Kirby was asked what impact a government shutdown could have on US aid to Kiev, as lawmakers continue heated negotiations over a stop-gap budget bill which could contain up to $25 billion in assistance to Ukraine.
“We’ve got a little bit more funding to go, so I think we’ll be ok for the next few weeks or so. But without the supplemental request that we asked for, it will absolutely have an effect on our ability to support Ukraine well into the fall and into the winter months,” the White House official said. “Not getting that supplemental request if there’s a shutdown – that’s gonna have a significant impact on their ability to succeed on the battlefield.”
Debate over the new spending bill has largely been centered on additional aid to Kiev, according to unnamed lawmakers cited by the New York Times, who said that some Republicans had rejected a proposal for another $25 billion in assistance.
“Despite broad bipartisan support in the Senate for money for Ukraine, officials said, some Republicans were arguing that it would present an added complication in trying to provide [House] Speaker Kevin McCarthy with a way out of the spending logjam,” the outlet reported, noting that GOP opposition could delay the legislation with “little time to spare” ahead of the September 30 shutdown deadline.
However, while officials have warned that Washington’s coffers are running dry – with deputy Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh recently calling a shutdown “the worst thing that could happen” – last week the Defense Department insisted the current budget woes would have no impact on US aid to Ukraine.
In a statement to media outlets on Friday, Pentagon spokesperson Chris Sherwood said the military had designated American assistance to Kiev as “essential,” deeming it “an excepted activity under a government lapse in appropriations.”
Though the same spokesman had suggested otherwise just days prior, Sherwood reversed course and stated that US military operations related to the Ukraine conflict would not be affected by a government shutdown, including the training of troops and the provision of arms.
Washington has approved billions of dollars in direct military aid to Kiev since fighting with Russia escalated in February 2022, including dozens of shipments of heavy weapons, vehicles and munitions. The latest deliveries have featured the first round of US Abrams main battle tanks, 31 of which were authorized for Ukraine early this year, with Kirby voicing hopes they would have a “significant impact on the battlefield.”
Moscow has repeatedly condemned foreign arms shipments to Ukraine, arguing they will do little to deter its aims and only prolong the conflict. Commenting on the Abrams shipments earlier this year, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Western countries were drastically overestimating the effect the tanks would have, adding that the American weapons would “burn like all the rest of them.”