Bipartisan backing for Ukraine to continue after midterms, but not without strings attached

9 November 2022, 11:00 AM
Ukraine is a hot topic in the 2022 U.S. midterm elections (Photo:flickr)

Ukraine is a hot topic in the 2022 U.S. midterm elections (Photo:flickr)

New York, United States – In the morning on Nov. 8 a small crowd of people gathered next to a voting station in Manhattan, located in a glittering office building with a beautiful indoor garden. While voting took time for some people on the election day, Philip J. Kleiner, NY immigration lawyer with Ukrainian heritage, cast his ballot pretty quickly. Proudly wearing an “I voted” sticker on his jacket, Kleiner stopped to talk to The New Voice of Ukraine. 

“I was going to vote for (Lee) Zeldin because I don’t like that other woman, whatever her name is. But then I learned how much Zeldin’s life depends on what (former U.S. President Donald J.) Trump says,” Kleiner said.

“Americans made a mistake voting for Trump six years ago. He destroyed the country. They should have kept him out of the White House. Because he's an idiot – not (because he’s) a bad person. But still.”

Video of day

Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin is the main challenger to the incumbent Democrat, Kathy Hochul, in the New York gubernatorial race. Polls predict Hochul will win over Zeldin, but the race is very tight this time around.

While New York historically favors Democrats, even here the party is predicted to win with a razor-thin margin. Meanwhile, Republicans are poised to win big during the midterms, all across the country.  Since Oct. 29, U.S. citizens have been voting in the midterm elections, during which all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 out of the 100 seats in the Senate are contested.  The midterms will define how 118th U.S. Congress will look. And most U.S. pollsters predicted it will be dominated by the Republican Party. Republicans might win the House, while Senate races are more competitive. (As this article was being prepared for publication, it appeared that the Democratic party had done better than polls had predicted.)

Philip J. Kleiner, NY immigration lawyer with Ukrainian heritage,  talks to NV on Nov. 8 (Фото: NV)
Philip J. Kleiner, NY immigration lawyer with Ukrainian heritage, talks to NV on Nov. 8 / Photo: NV

Hot topic

Although this year’s election is mostly about internal U.S. issues – inflation, abortion rights, and gun control policies – the ongoing U.S. military aid to Ukraine has also become a hot-button topic during the campaign.  Although the GOP has assured Ukraine has bipartisan support from the United States in its defense against the Russian invasion, and current Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnel even called for more military aid to Kyiv, more and more Republicans question U.S. aid to Ukraine.

House Minority Leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy, who would likely become the next Speaker of the House, said “there will be no more blank checks for Ukraine” if Republicans win the House.  Another prominent GOP member Marjorie Taylor Greene on Nov. 4 said that under Republicans “not another penny” will go to Ukraine.

Greene is a far-right politician from the very active, Trump-centered MAGA part of the Republican party. She is a Trumpist, who pushes conspiracy theories and advocated U.S. isolationism. The party keeps using her to fire up its base, and legitimizes her in the eyes of the U.S. society.   At a Nov. 4 rally in Iowa, the crowd met her remarks about Ukraine with cheers, fueling fears that the midterms results might potentially change U.S. policy of supporting Ukraine’s resistance against the Russian invasion.

“I have always voted Republican because I am pro-gun and because the Democrats always seem like the party of control and cowardice. I supported Ukraine early on, and pushed to give them guns. But the price of continuing for total victory is concerning,” Derek Courson, a U.S. businessman told NV.

“I have no problem with Ukraine fighting all it wants, but the question is how much should the rest of us pay. At some point, there needs to be a negotiated settlement, rather than spending trillions to fight to the end,” Courson added.

The United States has already pledged more than $18.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since President Joe Biden took office. Overall, since 2014 Washington has committed more than $21 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, and more than $18.2 billion since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February. During the historic Congressional vote on a $40 billion Ukraine aid package, all 57 votes against came from Republican lawmakers.


This amount of aid is unprecedented, especially at a time when the global economy is struggling with soaring inflation rates, while still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the majority of Americans still support aiding Ukraine, more and more politicians – and not only in the Republican camp – are ask how long the war is going to last.  On Oct. 24, a group of 30 Democrats from the U.S. Progressive House Caucus published a collective letter to Biden, urging him to engage in direct negotiations with Russia.

“As legislators responsible for the expenditure of tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in military assistance in the conflict, we believe such involvement in this war also creates a responsibility for the United States to seriously explore all possible avenues, including direct engagement with Russia, to reduce harm and support Ukraine in achieving a peaceful settlement,” the letter read.

After the letter was met with backlash at home and in Ukraine, the lawmakers withdrew the it.  Some signatories have acknowledged the letter was signed in the summer – before Ukraine’s successful counteroffensives – and has since become outdated. The Progressive Caucus explained that in no way they wanted to pull the plug on U.S. support for Ukrainian resistance, yet could not adequately explain why the old letter was published during the election campaign.

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U.S. experts predict the Republican Party victory in the midterms would not have a significant impact on aid to Ukraine, as both parties agree the United States should keep supporting Kyiv.

“Our country has always worked to support other countries, particularly when they've been invaded. Ukraine is a sovereign country that was invaded by Russia under false pretenses,” Tara Dowdell, political communication specialist and Democratic voter from New York told NV.

Conditional support

Yet the isolationist tendencies among many Republicans and contrarianism to any decision made by the Democrat president can plunge the United States deep into internal political crises and distract attention from Ukraine, Chad Briggs, principal consultant at GlobalINT LLC and a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University told NV.

He believes that with the Republicans ruling the House, support for the Ukrainian military and people would not be unconditional.

“This has been echoed in many other places among the GOP, especially among the more conservative base, who still idolize Russian authoritarianism,” Briggs said.

Briggs predicted the GOP will start congressional hearings on Hunter Biden, may try to impeach president Biden, and might try to cut Social Security and Medicare – using the debt ceiling threat as a cudgel.

“Given those domestic political crises that would result in after January and into the spring, I’m afraid it would be too easy for Americans to lose focus on the Russian invasion and the plight of Ukraine, and aid may very well be cut,” Briggs said.

“Just as problematically, the White House may lose its ability to hold other allies together in enforcing sanctions against Russia, or in coordinating aid and military training through organizations like NATO.”

One of the voting stations in Manhattan, New York (Фото: NV)
One of the voting stations in Manhattan, New York / Photo: NV

Standing up to Putin

J. Myles Coleman of the UVA Center for Politics confirmed isolationist tendencies among many Republicans. Under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party was known for its strong anti-Russian stance, and afterwards supported U.S. wars overseas, while Democrats called for withdrawal of troops; now it is sort of the other way around.

“Democrats used to be like the more kind of isolationist party. But, you know, with Ukraine war it is clear for everybody, that this isn't really a war of choice. There are a lot of people in America, who feel – rightfully so – that we have to stand up to Vladimir Putin,” Coleman said.

Indeed, many U.S. voters The New Voice talked to before Nov. 8 election, said they have adjusted their voting preferences because of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Some Republican voters decided to support Democrats over reports of GOP-Russia ties. Others claimed it was not fair to demonize the Republican Party as a sort of pro-Russian force in the United States that would throw Ukraine under the bus.

“I think there are enough Republicans in the House and Senate to keep aid to Ukraine going, especially if they will be working with surviving Dems. Many of us are old enough to remember the Cold War and that Russia is our enemy,” Republican Party supporter Timothy David Curp, associate professor at Ohio University, told NV.

“So, I can support both the Republican Party and Ukraine. I hope Ukrainians can understand while I regard your cause as hugely important, I also worry about my country. I don't believe Mr. Biden or his party are capable of nurturing American strength so we can maintain our global leadership,” Curp added.

Nationalist message

Although aid to Ukraine has become a matter of harsh discussions during the election campaign, Americans mostly agree that midterms are about the economy, inflation, and gas prices.

“I think those are bigger issues for people. As well as climate change – for left leaning voters it’s also an issue,” Dowdell said.

For many voters it’s alarming that Republicans have turned more authoritarian.

“I think a large part of that is thanks to the influence of Donald Trump. And because of his ties to Russia, Republicans have also sort of aligned themselves with Russia,” Dowdell added.

According to her, many Republican Party members continue to use U.S. aid to Ukraine as an argument that Democrats care more about people outside of the country than they do about ordinary Americans.

“That is why I think the Ukraine issue is really part of the larger nationalist message that they (Republicans) wanted to use to attack Democrats,” Dowdell said.

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