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Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum

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December 11, 2023

With very low public support level of Biden Administration, it is easy to see why Biden’s latest request for funding the proxy war in Ukraine is running into brick walls. The US southern border crisis is real, but we do not see any action or even proposal from the Biden Administration. It would be a piece of cake, if Biden would propose a budget request with border financing first then add on the request for Ukraine aid. But the Democratic seems to “draw a line in the sand” that Biden was only open to discuss the domestic border issues. Biden promised in 2020 that he would reach out the Republicans, but so far, his administration is absolutely along the Democratic party line.

The proxy war in Ukraine was stoked by the Biden Administration but they overestimated Zelenskyy’s capacity. He acted like a hero when the proxy war started in 2022, but now the war is essentially a stalemate. Zelenskyy refuses to accept any responsibility but asking for more funds. “America has sent enough money to Ukraine. We should tell Zelensky to seek peace,” Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida tweeted Sunday.

“So what we’re saying to the president and really to the entire world is, you need to articulate what the ambition is. What is $61 billion going to accomplish that $100 billion hasn’t?” Senator Vance said.

More than Zelenskyy’s ambition, before we send more funds to Ukraine, we also need to assess Zelenskyy’s leadership! He should explain to the world and not just to the US politicians, clearly how he would move forward with ending the proxy war and a timetable. His own people have suffered enough already, and they deserve a peaceful future!

Zelensky faces impossible task ahead of meetings in Washington

By Lauren Fox, CNN Updated 10:57 AM EST, Mon December 11, 2023

The fate of billions in assistance for Ukraine remains in limbo Monday morning even as President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to make a crucial pitch to senators and House Speaker Mike Johnson on Tuesday.

Zelensky’s visit to Washington – his third since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022 – is unlikely to shift a now cemented dynamic in Washington that Republicans, even those that back additional funding for Ukraine, aren’t willing to do more unless Democrats and the White House concede on major policy changes on the US southern border.

It’s a complicated moment for the White House, which has made the case again and again that Zelensky and his country are at a critical inflection point in their fight for Democracy. And yet, President Joe Biden’s administration may not be able to deliver the resources it has promised if a domestic, decades-long fight over immigration doesn’t rapidly yield a breakthrough soon.

Bottom Line: It’s more likely than not that Congress leaves at the end of this week without having passed additional aid, without a breakthrough on border policy and without a clear roadmap of how to ensure the funding passes in the thorny months ahead when a showdown over government spending, an impeachment inquiry and the presidential election are in full swing.

What to watch

Zelensky’s crucial meetings on Capitol Hill with Senators: Senators are well aware of the dynamics on the battlefield, Ukraine’s dire needs and the implications of congressional inaction could have on the long-term outlook of Democracy in Europe and around the world. It was the topic of a classified briefing last week and an issue that leaders on both sides don’t deny. Republicans like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, GOP Whip John Thune and other leaders like Sen. John Cornyn of Texas talk about it all of the time, but that has done little to impact their view that border security has to be part of any package for additional aid. Does that shift, soften or change? Not likely. Does it shift Democrats view of what they’d be willing to give on the border? We’ll see.

The speaker and Zelensky: Perhaps the most crucial meeting Tuesday will be the one between Johnson, the newly-minted speaker, and Zelensky. The speaker might be new, but the internal dynamics within the GOP conference remain unchanged.

“America has sent enough money to Ukraine. We should tell Zelensky to seek peace,” Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida tweeted Sunday.

Johnson has signaled that he is supportive of more aid to Ukraine, but has also made it clear to Senate leaders that the price for putting it on the House floor will be steep. Does a meeting with Zelensky, change the underlying dynamics of the moment? Unlikely. Johnson can’t put a bill on the floor without strong border security and even then he still could lose dozens of GOP votes. But this is still a major opportunity for Zelensky to build a relationship with a speaker who still has some grace within his conference and who will ultimately determine in the months ahead – more than any other figure in Washington – whether Ukraine gets the US aid it believes is so crucial to its survival as a country.

State of border talks

Senate negotiators continued talking over the weekend, but if you caught the leads on Sunday shows you know, there were no major breakthroughs. Aides tell CNN that the there was no major progress over the weekend.

The things still on the table at this point are, sources tell CNN, too conservative for Democrats to agree to. CNN reported Friday the sticking points that remained and the new list of GOP demands that included among other things, a massive crackdown on how the administration uses parole and a new national expulsion authority that was similar to Covid-era restriction that allowed border patrol to swiftly turn around migrants at the US- Mexico border. Republicans are also trying to insert a policy that would bar someone from seeking asylum in the US if they passed through a “safe third country” where they could have applied for asylum.

US trip finalized on Friday, White House official says

Zelensky’s last-minute trip to Washington came together late last week with the details of the trip being finalized Friday, a White House official said, as further aid for the war-torn country remains stalled on Capitol Hill.

Zelenskyy, Last Year’s Hero in Washington, Comes Hat in Hand as Ukraine War Stalls

Republicans remain resistant to more funding as Ukraine’s army runs low on weapons

Published 12/11/23 04:45 PM ET|Tom Nagorski

One year ago, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy got a hero’s welcome in Washington, greeted as a champion of the resistance against Russia and cheered with long bipartisan ovations during his address to Congress.

Ukraine was “alive and kicking,” he told American lawmakers, and President Joe Biden promised the U.S. would support the Ukrainian war effort “for as long as it takes.”

As Zelenskyy arrives in Washington this week, the war looks increasingly like a stalemate, ammunition stocks are running dangerously low, and Ukraine’s top commander has contradicted Zelenskyy publicly on the state of the war. Away from the battlefield, attention has shifted to Israel’s war against Hamas, and American support for the Ukrainian resistance has frayed.

What a difference a year makes

All of which makes Zelenskyy’s visit this week to the White House and Capitol Hill–intended “to underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine,” as the White House put it–as urgent as any foreign trip the Ukrainian leader has made since the war began.

Stalemate in the east?

While Zelenskyy aims to project confidence and articulate a path to victory, multiple reports suggest that Russian and Ukrainian forces are deadlocked along frontlines in eastern Ukraine. 

As The Messenger reported last week, recent private meetings between U.S. and Ukrainian officials concluded that key objectives of the Ukrainian counteroffensive had not been met.

Ukraine’s battlefield problems risk being aggravated by reported problems with troop mobilization, and the nation’s dire need for artillery shells and other ammunition.

Dissent in the ranks?

It hasn’t helped Zelenskyy that reports of political tensions in Ukraine have surfaced repeatedly since his last visit to the U.S. 

The recent U.S.-Ukraine meetings raised questions about the fraying relationship between Zelenskyy and several Ukrainian generals, including his top military commander Gen. Valery Zaluzhny. 

Multiple reports have described friction between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhny, some of which spilled into public view last month when Zaluzhny gave an interview to The Economist in which he said a Russian-Ukrainian stalemate was the war’s likeliest outcome. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst told The Messenger that tensions between Zaluzhny and Zelenskyy have been evident since the early days of the war and had grown in recent months.

Zelenskyy’s (and Biden’s) case for more funding

For the Biden Administration and some members of Congress, Ukraine’s latest problems only make the case for further U.S. support (the White House is seeking $61.4 billion in new funding) that much clearer. 

In a pair of television interviews Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the urgency of the moment. 

We are running out of funding” for the Ukrainians, Blinken said. “This is a time to really step up because if we don’t, we know what happens. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will be able to move forward with impunity and we know he won’t stop in Ukraine.”

Also on Sunday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the American aid “can change the outcome of this war,” and from the other side of the aisle, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, agreed. 

“My own view is that it’s very much in America’s interest to see Ukraine successful and to provide the weapons that Ukraine needs to defend itself,” Romney said. “Anything other than that would be a huge dereliction of our responsibility, I believe, to the world of democracy but also to our own national interest.”

But the Biden Administration and its supporters have run into a pair of hurdles of Capitol Hill–and those are looking increasingly like brick walls. 

One is an insistence that aid to Ukraine be linked not only to aid for Israel but also to changes in the administration’s policies on immigration and border security. The other has to do with skepticism over whether Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians really have a path to victory, and how American aid can help them get there.

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, said Sunday the administration has yet to justify the additional support. 

“So what we’re saying to the president and really to the entire world is, you need to articulate what the ambition is. What is $61 billion going to accomplish that $100 billion hasn’t?” Vance said.

That question is perhaps the key one Zelenskyy must answer, and doing so may require a rhetorical balancing act: He will have to project strength and confidence that his country’s war can be won; while also showing how dire the situation is, and that Ukrainians cannot do it alone.

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