WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden called Western allies on Tuesday (Oct 3) to reassure them US aid for Ukraine will continue, but the White House warned it could run out in months if Republicans in Congress fail to pass new funds for Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.
Biden spoke with the leaders of Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, the heads of the EU and NATO, and the foreign minister of France to “coordinate” on helping war-torn Ukraine, the White House said.
Washington has been scrambling to calm shaken allies after an 11th-hour deal in the US Congress to avoid a government shutdown on Saturday dropped new funding for Kyiv, amid opposition from hardline Republicans.
Biden told the allied leaders he was “confident” Congress would agree to fund new assistance for Ukraine, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
But Kirby warned that US aid will only last “perhaps a couple of months or so” if not, adding that it was vital to help Kyiv’s slow-moving counteroffensive before winter sets in.
“Time is not our friend,” Kirby said at a briefing. “We have enough funding authorities to meet Ukraine’s battlefields needs for a bit longer, but we need Congress to act.”
After Tuesday’s call, the allies rushed to show a united front with Biden, whose country is by far the largest supplier of aid to Ukraine.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s office said Biden was “keen to reassure the allies about the continuing American support for Ukraine, also following the recent decisions of the US Congress”.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “thanked President Biden for convening the call” and for his “leadership,” adding that Western support would continue for “as long as it takes”.
NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg said the call was “good” while EU chief Charles Michel said the allies “stand united.”
But Russia has pounced on the chaos in Washington, with the Kremlin saying on Monday that Western war fatigue would grow amid the uncertainty over US assistance for Ukraine.
Democrat Biden has called for Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to rush through new aid, saying that US support for Kyiv could not be interrupted “under any circumstances.”
“We are the indispensable nation in the world – let’s act like it,” Biden said on X, formerly Twitter, earlier Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday that Russian President Vladimir was “wrong” if he believes Moscow will be able to outlast Ukraine and its allies.
She added that the United States would soon announce new assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, which will be drawn from a US$113 billion budget already approved by Congress.
But the disruption in an ever-more divided US political scene could upend moves to pass the fresh $6 billion in aid that Biden had been seeking.
McCarthy faces a vote on Tuesday seeking to oust him from his role as House speaker, forced by the far-right of his party that has put stopping aid to Ukraine at the top of its agenda.
The chaos comes right after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington in September to plead for continued backing.
Opposition among hardline Republicans has been spreading more than a year and a half into Russia’s invasion, including to some voters.
An ABC/Washington Post poll released September 24 showed 41 per cent of respondents saying the United States was doing too much to support Ukraine, up from 33 per cent in February and just 14 per cent in April 2022.
Fears about Western unity have also grown after Slovakia elected populist leader Robert Fico – who has pledged to end military support for Ukraine – as prime minister at the weekend.