Zelensky's visit 'might not be able to break deadlock' in US Congress over aid
Published: Dec 11, 2023 10:08 PM
Smoke rises above the area of the frontline town of Avdiivka, Ukraine on October 18, 2023. Photo: AFP

Smoke rises above the area of the frontline town of Avdiivka, Ukraine on October 18, 2023. Photo: AFP

Although US President Joe Biden has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit the US, a move that is believed to help the Biden administration break the deadlock in Congress over aid to allow Ukraine to keep up its fight with Russia, analysts said serious partisan struggles between Democrats and Republicans, as well as the ongoing conflict in Gaza, could make it very difficult for Zelensky to get what he wants during this trip.

Ukraine's setback in the war would affect Biden in the 2024 election, and this is a key element that is making Republicans determined to add problems to the latest Ukraine aid deal in Congress, and if the US significantly reduces the amount of aid, more and more NATO members, especially those in Europe, will have a pretext to reduce their aid as well, and this would make the situation increasingly favorable to Russia. But before the US presidential election, which will be concluded late next year, it's still hard to see an end to the conflict.

Trying to break the deadlock

Zelensky's visit to the US this time, which the White House announced Sunday, is his third to Washington since the war in Ukraine began, and comes at a critical moment in congressional negotiations for emergency aid to Ukraine. Congress appears no closer to a deal tying immigration and border policy changes to the emergency aid package that will provide funding for Ukraine and Israel before lawmakers leave town for the holidays, CNN reported.

Apart from meeting with Biden, Zelensky will also meet with some congressional leaders on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of the Democrats and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of the Republicans invited Zelensky to speak to senators Tuesday morning, according to a Senate leadership aide. House Speaker Mike Johnson of the Republicans will also meet with Zelensky, according to the speaker's spokesman Raj Shah, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Chinese experts said that if Ukrainian forces lose a large amount of support from the US in terms of weapons and money, it will be very difficult for Kiev to keep up its fight, and the reason why Biden has invited Zelensky to visit Washington at this time is that the US president finds himself unable to convince congress members to cooperate on the aid deal, and wants Zelensky to help him, while Zelensky is also helping himself.

In this case, Biden and Zelensky share the same goal, because if Zelensky fails to get aid, leading to more failures on the battlefield, it would be a humiliation for the Biden administration. However, Republicans, who have a key role in passing the aid deal, do not share the same goal as Zelensky, as they and their voters believe that Americans have more important issues to deal with, and Ukraine is getting too much money from the US. Republicans want to see the Biden administration and Democrats lose in 2024, which is why Zelensky is unlikely to convince Republicans, said analysts. 

According to the Pew Research Center, a new poll that the institute conducted from November 27 to December 3, covering 5,203 Americans, showed that 31 percent of Americans say "the US is providing too much assistance to Ukraine" in its fight against Russia, while 29 percent say that "the US is providing the right amount of support," and only 18 percent say "the US is not providing enough." 

This means about 60 percent Americans believe that there should be no more aid to Ukraine, which has given Republicans confidence to block the deal in Congress, experts noted. 

The Washington Post said in its report on Sunday that "the key hurdle for more Ukraine funding is in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives," where Zelensky has not yet been invited to speak with House Republicans.

Cui Heng, an assistant research fellow from the Center for Russian Studies of East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday that "this is the most difficult moment for Ukraine since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis. The difficulty is not about defending against attacks from Russia, but about preventing being 'abandoned' by the US-led West."

Change in the battlefield

As Zelensky and Biden battled problems over the aid deal, Russia released some information about its victories on the battlefield. RT reported on Sunday that "Russian forces have unfurled the country's flag on the outskirts of Maryinka," a key town in Donetsk, and a major Ukrainian stronghold.

Reuters reported on December 2 that Ukraine's control over Maryinka remained uncertain, "with unofficial reports suggesting Russian forces had registered some gains."

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Monday that "Russia is surely getting the advantage in the battlefield. Russia would be able to expand its advantage if Ukraine is unable to get more aid from the West to pay for its hard fight with Russia." 

US aid is crucial to Ukraine, because Washington's decision will affect other Western countries, and if the US aid is significantly reduced or stopped, other Western countries will definitely reduce their aid as well, and this will be a major setback for Kiev, but good news for Moscow, Song noted.   

In the next stage, observing what European countries will do is key, Cui said. Although many European countries have promised that they will maintain their support for Ukraine, they all have to deal with domestic pressures, and if Republicans cut the US' aid successfully, more and more European right-wing conservative forces will follow, Cui noted.

In the first quarter of 2024, there might not be any significant change in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as only the Russian and US presidential elections will have an impact on the ongoing conflict, experts said.