Biden hosting Germany’s Scholz as Europe grows anxious about Ukraine funding impasse in Washington
Feb 9, 2024, 1:56 PM | Updated: 1:59 pm
(Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for talks Friday at a time of mounting anxiety in Europe over the White House’s ability to break an impasse in Congress that is blocking new aid to Ukraine for its war with Russia.
Scholz arrived in Washington ready to amplify an argument Biden himself has been making for months now: A Russian win in Ukraine would imperil the West and its allies. He’s also looking to highlight that Germany continues to provide robust funding for Ukraine despite budget constraints.
Scholz is emphasizing the stakes of the debate for Europe and beyond as House Republicans have blocked new U.S. funding. The Republicans are arguing that the United States can’t afford to keep pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into Ukraine’s war effort and that Europe should do more for Kyiv.
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Ahead of the White House meeting, Scholz said that backing away from support for Kyiv would have consequences beyond Ukraine and could prove more costly to Western governments in the long run.
“Others around the world are watching closely to see whether these divisions can be exploited and whether disinformation campaigns can take hold,” Scholz wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Thursday. “We must prove them wrong by convincing citizens on both sides of the Atlantic that a Russian victory would make the world a far more dangerous place. It would also strain our budgets while putting the freedom and prosperity of each of us in peril.”
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Republicans this week blocked a $118 bipartisan border package that had been tied to Ukraine funding and aid for Israel. The Senate on Thursday voted to begin work on a narrower package that would include roughly $60 billion for Ukraine and $35 billion for Israel, but doubts remained about whether it could win enough support from Republicans for passage.
The impasse has meant that the U.S. has halted arms shipments to Kyiv at a crucial point in the nearly two-year-old conflict, leaving Ukrainian soldiers without ample ammunition and missiles as Russian President Vladimir Putin has mounted relentless attacks. The U.S. has provided Ukraine with some $111 billion since Putin launched his grinding invasion.
German officials said Scholz intended to use his time in Washington, in part, to put the spotlight on what the 27-member European Union has done recently to help the Ukraine cause, including paving the way for EU membership talks for Ukraine, and underscoring that Germany is planning more than 7 billion euros ($7.5 billion) for weapons deliveries despite a domestic budget crisis.
Heather Conley, president of the German Marshall Fund in Washington, said that Scholz will be looking to hear from Biden on his “Plan B” if Congress remains at loggerheads over funding for Ukraine.
“If in fact, there is no forthcoming U.S. supplemental, what tools does the U.S. administration have at its disposal?” Conley said.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Biden would make clear to Scholz that despite the “dysfunction” in the House over Ukraine funding, there’s broad bipartisan support to continue to back Kyiv.
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Scholz said Friday before his meeting with Biden that he was hopeful the effort to separate Ukraine funding will end the funding impasse. The German leader hosted a bipartisan group of eight senators for dinner on Thursday evening after arriving in Washington.
“I don’t want to speculate about how long it will take, and whether a few more attempts will be needed, but it would be good if it happens very soon,” Scholz said.
U.S. officials are also concerned that the funding impasse is shaping Moscow’s strategy, noting a surge in strikes targeting Ukraine’s defense industrial base that seems aimed at setting back Ukraine’s ability to produce munitions needed to defend itself.
“The president believes that support for Ukraine is critical, particularly right now, as Russia continues to try to hit their defense industrial base,” Kirby said.
Scholz recently called on other European countries to step up with more weapons deliveries for Ukraine, saying that “it can’t be down to Germany alone.”
Berlin is making “a very big contribution, but it won’t be enough on its own if sufficient support doesn’t come together everywhere,” Scholz said before departing Germany for Washington on Thursday. “Now is the moment for us to do what is necessary — give Ukraine the possibility to defend itself, and at the same time send the Russian president a very clear signal: the signal that he can’t expect our support to ease off.”
The White House said Biden and Scholz are also expected to discuss the Israel-Hamas war and the July NATO summit, which the U.S. will host in Washington.
AP video journalist Tracy Brown contributed to this report. Moulson reported from Berlin.