Biden says US ‘will not walk away’ from Ukraine amid budget turmoil

The US president reassures allies and Kyiv after a last-minute budget deal in Congress axes funding for the war-torn country.

US President Joe Biden, right, with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the White House last month [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden says aid to Ukraine will keep flowing for now as he seeks to reassure allies of continued support for the war effort.

But time is running out, the president said on Sunday in a warning to Congress, which has voted to avert a government shutdown by passing a short-term funding package that dropped assistance for Ukraine in the fight against Russia.

“We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said.

“We have time, not much time and there is an overwhelming sense of urgency,” he said, noting that the funding bill lasts only until mid-November.

Biden urged the Congress to negotiate an aid package as soon as possible.

“The vast majority of both parties – Democrats and Republicans, Senate and House – support helping Ukraine and the brutal aggression that is being thrust upon them by Russia,” he said in an address from the White House.

“Stop playing games. Get this done,” Biden said, adding that he expected Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to secure passage of a separate bill for Ukraine funding soon.

“I want to assure our American allies, the American people and the people in Ukraine that you can count on our support. We will not walk away,” he said.

Hanging in the balance

Despite Biden’s attempts to reassure Kyiv, the future of US aid for Ukraine hangs in the balance after a last-gasp deal to avoid a government shutdown.

Although the compromise struck in Congress late on Sunday dropped new funding for Ukraine amid opposition from hardline Republicans, it remains unclear what might happen next.

Biden and his Democratic party say the US has a duty to help Ukraine stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, warning that failure to do so could embolden other nations in the future.

But the issue has become so politicised in Washington that the fate of vital military aid is now in jeopardy, just as Kyiv tries to make progress in its sluggish counteroffensive before winter sets in.

Russian missile strike
A building damaged by Russian missiles in Vinnytsia, Ukraine [File: Reuters]

The US has been a major supporter of Ukraine after Russia invaded it last year, and Biden has sought to rally the world, as well as his own country, to maintain that support.

Biden assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a visit to Washington last month that strong US support for his war to repel Russian invaders would be maintained despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers.

Biden urged Republicans to move ahead quickly to avoid another crisis in November.

“The brinkmanship has to end. And there shouldn’t be another … crisis,” he said. “I strongly urge my Republican friends in Congress not to wait. Don’t waste time as you did all summer. Pass a year-long budget agreement. Honour the deal we made a few months ago.”

Biden declined to weigh in on whether Democrats should support McCarthy if he needed their votes to keep his job as House speaker. The president said he would leave that to Democratic leaders in the Congress to decide.

The US has approved four rounds of aid to Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, totaling about $113bn, with some of that money going towards replenishment of US military equipment that was sent to the front lines. In August, Biden called on Congress to provide for an additional $24bn.

Source: News Agencies