NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers held on 28th November 2023 in Brussels, urged alliance members to persist in supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. Despite opposition in the United States to a military aid package and resistance in Europe for a longer-term support plan for Kyiv, the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg emphasized the need to stay the course for the sake of security interests. The US has already provided over $40bn in security aid to Ukraine since the invasion and pledged ongoing support, but a $61bn proposed aid package from the US and a $50bn package from the EU face delays due to opposition in the US Congress and Hungary, respectively.
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Stoltenberg expressed confidence in continued US support, citing recent 10 billion euros ($11bn) pledges from Germany and the Netherlands as proof of NATO’s commitment. Despite concerns over a stalemate in the fighting, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba plans to lobby for continued NATO backing and work on outlining reform plans for Ukraine’s potential alliance membership during the summit. Russia blames NATO expansionism for its grudge against Ukraine, cautioning against Ukraine joining the alliance. The conflict has resulted in an estimated 500,000 troops from Russia and Ukraine being killed or wounded, along with at least 10,000 civilian casualties, according to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
Overview of U.S. Security Aid to Ukraine
The United States has already provided over $40 billion in security aid to Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion, with a commitment to ongoing support.
On November 20, 2023, the United States announced a new package of weapons and equipment worth up to $100 million to aid Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression. The capabilities in this package include air defense missiles, artillery ammunition, anti-tank weapons, demolition munitions, small arms ammunition, and other equipment. While this assistance addresses Ukraine’s immediate battlefield needs, it is emphasized that Congress must act to support Ukraine by passing the President’s supplemental funding request. The goal is to help Ukraine safeguard its sovereignty and future as a democratic and independent nation, contributing to broader regional stability and deterring future aggression. The commitment to stand with Ukraine remains in place until Russia ends its war of aggression.
However, proposed aid packages of $61 billion from the USA is facing delays, primarily due to opposition in the US Congress.
Public Opinion on U.S. Financial Aid to Ukraine
Close to half of the U.S. public believes that the country is allocating too much financial aid to Ukraine amid the conflict with Russia, reveals polling by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. This sentiment, predominantly driven by Republicans, contributes to the growing resistance among conservative GOP lawmakers against approving additional Ukraine aid proposed by President Joe Biden.
Although opposition to aid has slightly decreased from 52% in October to 45% till November 28, the Republican reluctance remains robust. Some argue that domestic priorities, such as healthcare for veterans and addressing homelessness, should take precedence over foreign aid. The Biden administration is pushing for a $106 billion emergency spending package, including over $61 billion for Ukraine, emphasizing the urgency as the well of aid is perceived to be running dry. Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the House, led by Speaker Mike Johnson, faces challenges as GOP lawmakers demand tougher border measures alongside additional Ukraine aid.
Additionally, there is a growing inclination among Americans for the U.S. to take a less active role in global problem-solving, reflecting a shift since September 2023. The debate also involves calls for more transparency and oversight in allocating funds for international assistance.
Why did Hungary Reject Providing Aid to Ukraine?
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has rejected the European Union’s proposed 50 billion euro aid package for Ukraine. The EU is considering revising its 2021-27 budget in December, facing strains from pandemic-related spending and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The EU executive suggested member states contribute more to provide 50 billion euros to Ukraine, allocate 15 billion euros for migration, and earmark 20 billion euros for military aid to Ukraine.
Orban stated that the request for Hungary to contribute more money was deemed “ridiculous” by the commission, especially considering that Budapest, along with Poland, has not received funds from the EU’s Recovery Fund due to an ongoing rule-of-law dispute.
Russia and Ukraine began war in February 2022. It marked a significant escalation in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War since 2014. By June 2022, Russian forces occupied approximately 20% of Ukrainian territory, resulting in substantial civilian and military casualties, with millions displaced internally and externally. The conflict led to Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, with over 8.2 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.
As per the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, 2023, the fighting has caused at least 10,000 civilian casualties and an estimated 500,000 servicemen from both Russia and Ukraine to be killed or injured.
The war caused severe environmental damage, termed an “ecocide,” contributing to global food crises. Widespread destruction, missile attacks, and damage to infrastructure led to a humanitarian crisis, disrupting essential services like water, electricity, healthcare, and education. Vulnerable groups, including older individuals, people with disabilities, women, and children, faced heightened risks, such as gender-based violence and exploitation.
Humanitarian organizations, including UNHCR and UNICEF, worked to address urgent needs by establishing safe spaces and providing support services for refugees. The war’s global impact disrupted supply chains, increasing the prices of essential commodities. The UN Refugee Agency faced a significant funding gap, affecting operations in various countries.
In January 2023, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees emphasized the need for sustained generosity from donors to address the urgent humanitarian needs arising from the conflict in Ukraine and its ripple effects worldwide.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg’s plea for solidarity in supporting Ukraine reflects the ongoing challenges in garnering international assistance. Despite NATO’s commitment, delays in proposed aid packages from the USA and Hungary’s rejection of the EU’s offer underscore the complex geopolitical landscape. The war’s toll on lives, the environment, and global humanitarian efforts underscores the urgency of sustained support for Ukraine.