White House Warns Ukraine Aid Is Running Out, Pressing Congress for More

White House Warns Ukraine Aid Is Running Out, Pressing Congress for More
White House Warns Ukraine Aid Is Running Out, Pressing Congress for More

The White House warned congressional leaders on Monday that the United States would run out of money to send weapons to Ukraine by year’s end, severely jeopardizing Kyiv’s ability to defend itself against Russia if lawmakers fail to approve emergency military aid soon.

The urgent warning from President Biden’s top budget official, delivered in a blunt letter, was the administration’s latest bid to pressure the Republicans resisting another infusion of aid to Ukraine to drop their opposition.

It came at a critical time in the war, as Ukraine struggles to push back Russian troops in a counteroffensive that has largely stalled. President Vladimir V. Putin has continued to send a steady stream of his forces into the conflict, willing to endure high casualties amid signs of flagging resolve from Kyiv’s Western allies.

“We are out of money — and nearly out of time,” Shalanda D. Young, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, wrote in the letter, which was sent to House and Senate leaders in both parties.

“Cutting off the flow of U.S. weapons and equipment will kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield, not only putting at risk the gains Ukraine has made, but increasing the likelihood of Russian military victories,” she continued, adding: “This isn’t a next year problem. The time to help a democratic Ukraine fight against Russian aggression is right now.”

On Capitol Hill, Republican backing for Ukraine’s war effort has dwindled substantially in recent months. The party’s leaders have said they will consider additional aid only in exchange for one of their top policy priorities: major changes to border policy to severely limit the number of migrants entering the United States.

And on Monday, the White House plea fell on deaf ears in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, said Democrats have not done enough to earn the support of his members to send more money to Ukraine.

“The Biden administration has failed to substantively address any of my conference’s legitimate concerns about the lack of a clear strategy in Ukraine, a path to resolving the conflict, or a plan for adequately ensuring accountability for aid provided by American taxpayers,” Mr. Johnson said on X on Monday, responding to the White House letter. “House Republicans have resolved that any national security supplemental package must begin with our own border.”

In recent weeks, the G.O.P.’s ultimatum — and Ukraine’s vanishing funds — prompted a group of Senate Democrats and Republicans to try to hash out a deal on border policies. But the talks have faltered as lawmakers proved unable to resolve a series of impasses over some of the G.O.P.’s most draconian border demands.

The issue is coming to a head this week, as the Democratic-led Senate prepares to vote Wednesday on more than $61 billion in Ukraine-focused assistance as part of a $106 billion national security package that would also fund Israel’s war effort in Gaza. The bill needs Republican votes to move forward. But the stalemate has left Democrats and the White House with no option to secure them other than pressuring G.O.P. lawmakers who have supported Ukraine in the past to abandon their party’s border security demands, forecasting dire consequences if they do not.

“Any member of Congress who does not support funding for Ukraine is voting for an outcome that will make it easier for Putin to prevail,” Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, told reporters on Monday. “A vote against supplemental funding for Ukraine will hurt Ukraine and help Russia. It will hurt democracy and help dictators, and we think that that is not the right lesson of history and that every member Democrat and Republican should vote to support this.”

Further complicating the White House’s warning is an ongoing dispute within the Biden administration over just how urgently Ukraine needs additional aid.

Pentagon officials said they were surprised by the claim that the United States is out of funds, since they are still doling out over $100 million worth of arms and ammunition from stockpiles every week or so. They said they anticipate being able to stretch out shipments to make the remaining $4.8 billion last through the winter, when the pace of fighting is expected to decline.

Defense Department officials also expect that billions in new weapons and equipment purchased directly from manufacturers will be delivered to Ukraine over the coming months.

Since Russia attacked Ukraine in early 2022, Congress has poured $111 billion into Kyiv’s war effort, including security and humanitarian assistance. Some G.O.P. leaders, like Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, have enthusiastically supported such aid, arguing that the investments are not only a moral necessity, but also economically advantageous to the United States, as most of the weapons sent to Kyiv are produced domestically.

But as the battle grinds on and the U.S. presidential election looms, Republicans increasingly have raised skepticism about providing Kyiv with financial support, and have sought to use the war as a political cudgel against the Biden administration.

Republicans twice refused to include Ukraine war funding in stopgap spending bills to keep the government funded this fall, arguing that the issue would have to be tied to border security. Their demands prompted the Biden administration to ask lawmakers for almost $14 billion to hire additional Border Patrol and asylum officers and build detention facilities as part of the president’s $106 billion national security supplemental request.

Financial investments were not enough to satisfy Republicans, however. While Democrats have been willing to negotiate changes to asylum laws, such as raising the standard for migrants claiming a credible fear of persecution in their home countries, they were unable to swallow codifying more stringent detention policies, such as one that would keep migrants outside of the United States while waiting for their day in immigration court.

Mr. Johnson, who has voted repeatedly against aid for Ukraine, has told G.O.P. senators in recent days that House Republicans would not support more funding for Kyiv unless it was attached to legislation passed by his chamber to revive strict Trump-era administration policies.

“I will not vote for any aid until we secure our border,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He added: “I’m not helping Ukraine until we help ourselves.”

As the fate of Ukraine aid remains in limbo, allies have openly worried about whether the United States will sustain its support of the nearly two-year war — and what that will mean on the battlefield.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has long made clear how big a loss it would be to his war effort should American military assistance end. “We need three victories,” he said on Nov. 24, adding: “The first is with Congress. It’s a challenge.”

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, met in Brussels on Monday with Rustem Umerov, Ukraine’s defense minister, to reiterate the military alliance’s “long-term support,” according to a NATO statement. But a day earlier, in an interview with the German broadcaster ARD, Mr. Stoltenberg said that though countries ought to support Ukraine through good times and bad, “we should also be prepared for bad news.”

In battlefield interviews, Ukrainian soldiers said the amount of American weapons and other equipment had already begun to drop. In one frontline artillery unit more than 150 miles north of Avdiivka, in eastern Ukraine, soldiers had only 20 shells per day allotted to them, which meant they could realistically hope to take out two targets. When the same unit was in Kherson during the offensive last summer, they had five times as much ammunition at their disposal, the soldiers said.

European states, most notably Germany, have tried to fill the gap with more air defense systems, ammunition and other supplies. But those will not be available to meet Ukraine’s demands until the continent’s defense industry ramps up — a process that will take at least a year, and most likely longer.

Five American defense companies were the world’s top arms producers in 2022, according to an analysis released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. But the demands of the war have also stretched their capacity because of labor and supply shortages, the study concluded.

Despite the looming shortfalls, the White House has tried to project confidence that Congress would ultimately approve the aid for Ukraine by year’s end. Last week, Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, spent considerable time at a high-level NATO meeting trying to assuage doubts in Europe.

But Ms. Young’s letter laid bare the administration’s concerns.

The Pentagon has spent 97 percent of the war funding it received, totaling about $62.3 billion, according to the letter. Nearly $45 billion of that has gone directly to Ukraine, according to the latest State Department weapons tally.

The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development have spent an additional $27.2 billion on economic assistance to Ukraine and civilian security assistance, like clearing minefields. Ms. Young said that money “is just as essential to Ukraine’s survival as military assistance.”

“If Ukraine’s economy collapses, they will not be able to keep fighting — full stop,” she wrote. “Putin understands this well.”

Marc Santora contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine, and Michael D. Shear and Eric Schmitt from Washington.