US Foreign Aid Package: How the Threat to US Leadership Has Brought Democrats and Republicans Closer Together

24 avril 2024

On Saturday April 20th, after six months of prevarication, the House of Representatives voted by a large majority in favour of a new financial and military aid package for Ukraine, worth 61 billion dollars. The bill will be debated in the Senate early this week. The last time US Congress voted on a major aid package for Ukraine was in 2022, before the majority tilted in favour of the Republicans. To date, the US Congress has granted $113 billion to Ukraine, including $75 billion in direct military, humanitarian and financial support. The other measures, voted on separately on 20 April, also on a bipartisan basis, concern sanctions against TikTok, aid for Israel and Gaza ($26 billion) and Taiwan ($8 billion).

Nearly half of the Conservative representatives voted in favour of the package for Ukraine. For their part, out of blind loyalty to Trump, who claimed that this aid would only prolong the conflict, and out of an obsession never to vote for any legislation with the Democrats, the MAGA (Make America Great Again) and other media extremists in the House opposed it. Their threats against Mike Johnson, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, were in vain; he stood firm. Revanchists are also perpetuating the belief that Ukraine helped Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. There is no evidence of this, whereas Russian interference in the election to favour Donald Trump has been documented, notably in Special Prosecutor Robert Muller’s investigation in 2019.

Cold War vision

Mike Johnson undoubtedly took a political risk, but a measured one. He had travelled to Mar-a-Lago on 12 April to meet the former president, who, according to the American press, was not opposed to the prospect of a financial loan to Ukraine (which will probably never be repaid). So is this vote on 20 April a sign that a large proportion of Republican representatives are not aligned with Donald Trump – who is not elected and has no political responsibilities, but talks to them in their earpieces all the time – or, more likely, a laissez-faire attitude on the part of Trump, who is mired in legal problems at a time when his first criminal trial in the Stormy Daniels affair has begun? Not to mention that his motto remains that, if he returns to the White House, the war will end immediately. In other words… we’ll see later.

Russia remains an adversary, not to say an enemy, in the collective representations of the Republican Party, which admittedly no longer has a strong neo-conservative voice in its midst, but is still imbued with a Cold War vision of geopolitics. There is a strong fear that Ukraine, now in a poor military position, could be just one stage in Vladimir Putin’s strategy of conquest in Eastern Europe. And Johnson said he would « rather send bullets than boys [soldiers] to Ukraine ». A long war, perhaps, but without American cannon fodder – the trauma of Iraq is still fresh.

Weakened defence of democratic values

Beyond this, the fear of the United States losing its leadership of the world is bringing the two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, closer together. This fear is both well-founded and outdated. In particular, the defence of the values of democracy and human rights is being undermined by the fact that American support for Israel (which is far more unconditional among Republicans, who could care less about the fate of the Palestinians, than among Democrats) gives the impression of a « double standard » throughout the world: why is compassion and aid for Ukrainian civilians not given, or given so little, to Palestinian civilians in Gaza?

This also explains why the House voted for 13 billion in military aid for Israel, and 9 billion for humanitarian aid to Gaza – a considerable sum. Only 37 elected Democrats voted against, which is less than we might have expected, and shows that there is no anti-Biden sling on the subject in Congress. It is likely that Iran’s recent attacks on the Jewish state were a factor in the ‘yes’ vote, including on the left.

Internationally, and in some sections of the American political class and civil society themselves, there is a growing impression that the United States has lost control: the Russian-Ukrainian conflict was not supposed to last so long, Russia was not supposed to garner so much support around the world out of mutual, well-understood interests, and the transnational pro-Palestinian movements were not supposed to be so determined. The planet is more fractured than ever, and solutions for peace are getting further and further away. The possibility of a return to power by a Trump driven by a transactional vision of international relations ( » deals »), the weakness of which was demonstrated by the Abraham Accords, is not reassuring.

An article initially published by L’Obs.
Translated by Deepl.
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