Ukraine, Israel aid package faces major challenge: Lost time

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson Jun16,2024

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has embraced a sense of urgency to deliver aid for U.S. allies following Iran’s attack against Israel over the weekend, moving ahead with a floor vote on a $95 billion national security package.

But after months of Israel and Ukraine expending resources in their respective wars absent U.S. assistance, questions remain about whether that top-line figure will be enough. 

Johnson is proposing to bring a vote on four separate bills addressing aid for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific and other national security priorities. Republicans have matched President Biden’s original request for aid to Israel — a little more than $14 billion — and some $60 billion for Ukraine, though about $10 billion in aid for Kyiv has been shifted to loans. 

The Biden administration last sent a package of military aid to Ukraine in December, and Russia has gained a firm upper hand in the war in the months since. Ukraine and its allies say there is no time to waste for Congress to approve more aid, as it seeks to avoid potentially irreversible losses to Moscow’s invading forces. 

“There’s now concern that absent assistance arriving very quickly, Russia may actually be able to break through some of the Ukrainian lines and retake territory,” said Michèle Flournoy, who served as undersecretary of Defense for policy during the Obama administration.

“So people talk about this as a frozen line — it is not frozen. Ukraine has been holding the line against incredible odds, but if they don’t get help soon, Russia will likely take additional territory and could even get to the point where it’s a real threat to the capital again. We can’t get it to them fast enough.” 

While Democrats have largely supported Johnson’s proposal on foreign aid, his move to break the Senate bill into component parts could slow down the process by weeks. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said it could delay weapons shipments by two months and might mean “basically boiling Ukraine to death slowly.”

Concerns about Israel are relatively less pressing, but growing by the day amid fears of a wider war with Iran and its proxies in the region. 

Israel’s defense last weekend against a massive Iranian assault of drones and missiles required the use of multimillion-dollar air defense interceptors and other large-scale munitions — all of which need to be replenished.  

“No doubt that Israel needs support for its campaign in Gaza, but the primary reason Israel needs security assistance from the U.S. is for the next war,” said Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundations for Defense of Democracy.

“I think it’s so important to provide Israel additional security assistance yesterday, not so much for the ongoing war in Gaza, but for the war that’s coming soon with Hezbollah [in Lebanon] and Iran.”

On Wednesday, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a strike in northern Israel that injured 14 soldiers, six of them severely, according to Israel’s military. 

And Israel is calibrating its response to Iran’s recent attack. Iran’s salvo against Israel was launched in response to Israel’s strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria. 

Israel prepares for larger war

In the immediate aftermath of Iran’s attack against Israel, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) was one of a few Republicans to join dozens of Democrats calling for Speaker Johnson to bring the Senate-passed national security supplemental to the House floor for a vote.

Johnson announced Monday he would split the supplemental into four separate votes, a move Wilson told The Hill he supports. But Wilson said even more aid for Israel may be needed given what they expended to down Iran’s approximately 300 drones and missiles.

“I’m really concerned that, with what happened over the weekend, that there could be a real issue,” he said, emphasizing the need to restock Israel’s air defense systems: David’s Sling, which can take out long-range ballistic missiles and warplanes, and the Iron Dome, which combats shorter-range rockets and mortars. 

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, said $14 billion at the moment is still appropriate, but that Iran’s attack has motivated the House.

“It sort of put an exclamation point on the urgency of all of this,” she said. 

And she expressed optimism that the House will vote and pass Johnson’s four separate aid bills — for Israel, Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific and other national security priorities.  

“Things are going in the right direction,” she said.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told The Hill on Tuesday that any package of bills sent from the House to the Senate must include significant humanitarian assistance. Johnson’s proposal, unveiled Wednesday, includes $5.6 billion in humanitarian assistance. 

“If that single bill contains billions in desperately needed humanitarian relief … my assumption is it will get a strong vote in my caucus,” Coons said. 

Johnson’s proposal does not include conditions on military aid to Israel, something Coons and some other Democrats had brought up in the wake of an Israeli strike that killed seven humanitarian workers with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen. 

Ukraine on the brink

While Israel prepares for its next battles, Ukraine is bleeding.

U.S. assistance, in the form of 155 mm artillery shells and air defense interceptors, are viewed as critical in Ukraine’s defense, which is now stretched thin across the approximately 600-mile front line. 

U.S. officials estimate that Ukraine is outgunned by Russia 5-to-1; Ukrainian officials put that figure higher, at 7- or even 10-to-1. The Russians have superiority in nearly every area, including guns, missiles, warplanes and manpower, said Kateryna Stepanenko, a Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). 

“Essentially, what we’re seeing on the battlefield right now, is the Russians exploiting the gap in this aid,” she said. 

This means the Russian military being able to choose when and where it can attack Ukraine, and fortifying its positions to make it even more challenging for Ukrainians to regain the initiative. 

“Any Russian gains in Ukraine without consistent military aid can be irreversible,” Stepanenko said. But she added that the ISW still projects that Ukraine can achieve their definition of victory — which is a liberation of all their territories. 

Artillery, ammunition and air defense systems are seen as the priority weapons to be transferred to Ukraine, but other forms of U.S. assistance — from combat vehicles to minesweeping and electronic warfare equipment — are also critical for offensive operations.

Republicans have included in the Ukraine aid package a requirement that the Biden administration send long-range missiles, or ATACMs, to Kyiv, but have included a presidential waiver if delivery of such weapons harms U.S. security.

The missiles are viewed as key in allowing Ukraine to strike Russian military targets inside Russia. But the Biden administration has held back on sending ATACMs over the course of more than two years of war. The administration has warned Ukraine not to use American weapons to strike within Russian territory, fearing an escalation from Moscow against the U.S. 

It’s unclear how Democrats will respond to the GOP requirement on ATACMs, with Ukraine’s supporters in Congress intent on delivering more assistance. 

Biden issued a statement Wednesday giving his unqualified support for the House bills. 

“The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow,” he said. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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2 thoughts on “Ukraine, Israel aid package faces major challenge: Lost time”
  1. In my opinion, it’s crucial for the U.S. to act swiftly and provide the necessary aid to Ukraine and Israel to prevent further escalation of conflict and potential territorial losses. The delay in assistance may pose a risk of Russia gaining more ground, and immediate action is needed to support our allies in the region.

  2. As a former military expert, it is crucial that the U.S. acts swiftly to support Ukraine and Israel. The delay in aid risks allowing Russia to make further territorial gains, which could have dire consequences. The proposed package must be approved without hesitation to prevent a potential escalation of the conflict.

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