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Moment of truth: How Iran's attack on Israel affects US aid to Ukraine

Moment of truth: How Iran's attack on Israel affects US aid to Ukraine President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden (photo: Getty Images)

This week, there have been real chances for the US Congress to finally approve a multi-billion dollar aid package to Ukraine. This has been an indirect result of Iran's recent attack on Israel. For more details, check out the material by RBC-Ukraine.

During the article's composition, materials from The New York Times, CNN, The Hill, Atlantic Council, as well as public statements by American politicians, were utilized.


Nearly six months have passed since US President Joe Biden submitted a bill to Congress for a new aid package to Ukraine. The package also included assistance to Israel, which had come under attack by Hamas militants, efforts to counter China, and strengthening the border with Mexico.

Biden's proposal got bogged down in endless and fruitless negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. As a result, in February, the Senate narrowly passed its own version, which included aid to Ukraine (amounting to $60 billion), Israel, and Taiwan, while shelving the issue of the Mexican border.

However, the Senate document never made it to consideration in the House of Representatives. The main reason is opposition from a group of Trumpist Republicans, the most radical of whom are fundamentally against any aid to Ukraine.

Furthermore, there is a confident majority in the House from both parties in favor of providing further support to Ukraine. However, to do so, the bill needs to be brought to the floor for consideration, and Republican Speaker Mike Johnson is resisting this. Firstly, he is wary of the radical Trumpists within his caucus who threaten him with possible ousting over the "Ukraine issue." Secondly, he is mindful of Donald Trump himself, who even as a former presidential candidate has the power to bury the political careers of any fellow party member.

What Republicans propose

Johnson did not fulfill his promise to immediately address the issue of assistance to Ukraine after the end of the Easter holidays, from April 9. It seemed that the issue of Ukraine would again get bogged down in endless consultations.

But the situation sharply changed with Iran's attack on Israel on the night of April 13-14. Because of this, providing assistance to Israel once again became a top priority on the US political agenda. In Congress, there is talk of the need to allocate it urgently, already this week.

Democrats have decided to seize the moment and push through assistance to Ukraine through the House of Representatives. The simplest way to do this is to vote on the already approved Senate bill Ukraine+Israel+Taiwan through expedited procedures, which President Biden would immediately sign. It would only take a few hours in total.

However, Speaker Johnson stands in the way once again. He supports providing assistance to Israel but has his own vision of how to help Ukraine. He specifically visited Trump's residence beforehand to consult with him on this matter.

Firstly, Johnson managed to secure support from the former president in case the staunchest Trump loyalists try to push him out of office. Secondly, Trump publicly agreed again to provide assistance to Ukraine, but with a condition – it would be provided as a loan.

Among Johnson's other ideas is to include in the aid package the transfer of frozen Russian assets in the US to Ukraine (estimated at around $5 billion), as well as lifting the ban on the construction of new terminals for liquefied natural gas exports (the idea being to weaken Russia's position in the global gas market)

Why Democrats are against it

Initially, Democrats were against providing assistance to Ukraine on a credit basis rather than on a non-repayable basis, as it is now. According to RBC-Ukraine, Biden's national security advisor Jake Sullivan, during a recent visit to Kyiv, asked the Ukrainian government not to publicly agree to such an option.

However, shortly after, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine found itself in a situation where it was ready to accept American assistance on any terms. And according to American media reports, even the Democrats in Congress, in principle, were willing to concede to Johnson/Trump on this issue - if the aid package could be voted on. Now, Democratic leadership is insisting on the adoption of the Senate-approved Ukraine+Israel+Taiwan project.

In the matter of using Russian assets to aid Ukraine, there is generally consensus between Republicans and Democrats. However, many Democrats do not support the construction of LNG terminals. Biden, at one point, was forced to pause this process under pressure from environmental activists. For a significant portion of his constituents, environmental protection is a crucial issue, and a few months before the elections, the president is unlikely to risk losing their support.

Момент істини. Як атака Ірану на Ізраїль вплинула на допомогу Україні від США

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (Photo: Getty Images)

Even Johnson's close associates haven't seen the final version of his bill to aid Ukraine. "We'll send our package – we'll put something together and send it to the Senate," the speaker described his initiative in one of his recent TV appearances.

Any American law must be approved by both chambers of Congress, with all amendments. In the case of allocating aid to Ukraine, this means that any new initiative by Johnson must pass through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

For example, dividing aid to Ukraine and Israel into two separate bills, as Johnson also mentioned. Even if there are enough votes for this in the House, such a proposal will likely not pass through the Senate.

If additional issues, such as LNG terminals or the Mexican border, are included in the Ukrainian package, it will almost certainly fail.

Why it's important to vote for aid to Ukraine now

Currently, the Speaker of the House finds themselves under pressure from all sides, not only from the White House and Democrats in Congress, but also from pro-Ukrainian Republicans. For instance, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, stated that aid to Ukraine and Israel should be voted on as one package. "What happened in Israel last night happens in Ukraine every night," McCaul said. 91 congressmen from both parties wrote an open letter to Johnson urging him to immediately bring the Senate bill Ukraine+Israel+Taiwan to a vote.

Potentially, this project could be adopted bypassing Johnson; for this purpose, Democrats have registered a corresponding petition in the House. At the moment, only 23 signatures are lacking for its implementation. However, there are problems here as well. Firstly, the left wing of the Democratic faction, which is opposed to providing aid to Israel, does not want to sign it. Secondly, Republicans don't want to sign either - because politically, it would look like a concession to the Democrats.

Right now, there's a very short window when aid to Ukraine could realistically be voted on while the issue of the Iranian attack on Israel is still relevant. However, if Israel doesn't strike Iran hard (and such a scenario seems increasingly unlikely), this topic will quickly be overshadowed by others in the media. And the American political scene will fully focus on the presidential elections, and the moment for Ukraine will be lost.

The further course of events depends on the decision Republicans in the House will make regarding Ukraine and Israel. The faction meeting will take place overnight from Monday to Tuesday Kyiv time.