European leaders have reason to be concerned about the United States’ disengagement from Ukraine. If we refer to the speeches of the Republicans across the Atlantic, Europe could well find itself alone. The last package of US aid to Ukraine left on December 27, but White House Security Council spokesman John Kirby made it clear a few days ago that there was no no others in preparation.
While an envelope of 50 billion euros is stuck in European coffers because of the Hungarian opposition, Joe Biden has been asking Congress for several months to release a new tranche of aid. The American president speaks of a package of 100 billion dollars, which includes both aid to kyiv, to the tune of 61 billion dollars, but also sums for Israel and for migration policy there in the United States .
Republicans would prefer to invest massively on the border with Mexico
Since the start of the Russian invasion two years ago, 44 billion in military aid have already been released. When Volodymyr Zelensky returned to Washington before Christmas, the US president assured him that America would stand by Ukraine. And the head of diplomacy, Antony Blinken, repeated it during his meeting with the Ukrainian president on Tuesday January 16 in Davos. The problem is that the Republicans in Congress refuse to sign a new check if there are not drastic measures accompanied by funds for the Mexican border. The most extreme, close to Donald Trump, are even campaigning to turn off the American tap.
With Donald Trump, more than ever favorite to win the Republican nomination for the presidential election in November, no one ever knows what to expect. He is capable of anything, and especially of changing his mind without warning. But listening to him, we currently have the impression that American support for Ukraine could be seriously undermined if he returned to the Oval Office. In his current speech, if he says that with him, “Putin would never have invaded Ukraine”, he assures that if he returns to power, he will “end the conflict in 24 hours”. He doesn’t say how he would go about it, but we can assume the worst. He is not sure whether the United States would remain in NATO and, on this point, he says it will depend on how Washington is treated.
In Brussels, we are trying to make Viktor Orbán bend
In Brussels, the consequence of this situation is that European funding is more necessary than ever. But the EU is entangled in internal tensions with Hungary which threaten the continuation of aid to Ukraine. The Europeans are still at an impasse since the breakdown of negotiations at the December 2023 summit. The objective remains the same and the President of the Commission confirmed it in Strasbourg before Parliament on Tuesday: European aid for Ukraine must be set in stone, that is, in the Union’s multiannual budget. For this, the EU wants to include an envelope of 50 billion for Ukraine in the common budget for the next four years. Ukrainians need funding that is “predictable for 2024 and beyond”, insists Ursula von der Leyen, which is also the position of most EU capitals.
The problem remains the Budapest opposition. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán does not seem to have any intention of giving in, despite the release by the Commission of 10 billion euros in aid to Hungary. This financial concession remains a sword in the water, because if Viktor Orbán admits today that we must help Ukraine, which is already a step, he has not modified his red lines. For him, financial aid to Ukraine should not harm the EU budget and should therefore remain outside it. His proposal is therefore to cut the envelope in four and allocate 12.5 billion to Ukraine each year.
Other EU member countries do not accept this idea. They want European aid to appear as long-term aid, to send a clear political message to the Kremlin. On the other hand, an annual envelope makes them fear annual blackmail from Hungary. The issue will therefore be on the table at the extraordinary EU summit on February 1, and unblocking the Hungarian veto will be the major concern. A thaw in relations between Budapest and kyiv could help and a meeting is planned for January 29 between the foreign ministers of the two countries concerned. This will involve preparing for an Orbán-Zelensky meeting.