Many U.S. lawmakers were quick to pledge support for Israel following terrorist attacks on the country by the Palestinian extremist organization Hamas, which runs Gaza. However, the combined burden of supporting Ukraine in its effort to repel a Russian invasion while providing aid to Israel in its battle against Hamas has some questioning whether the burden will be too much to bear for the United States in the current political climate.
According to the New York Times, industry executives have admitted that they are struggling to address all of Ukraine’s war demands as the Biden administration scrambles to provide Israel with air defenses and munitions.
An American ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, has attempted to downplay these concerns saying at a recent meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, “We don’t anticipate any challenges” in regard to supporting both embattled nations.
However, Adm. Rob Bauer, a senior NATO official, said last week that Western stockpiles of weapons were nearing “the bottom of the barrel” and called on the defense industry to increase production, the New York Times reported.
His comments came at a time when further support for Ukraine by the U.S. hangs in the balance following the ousting of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
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Americans are increasingly divided on the issue, as skepticism about the effectiveness of the Ukrainian war effort rises.
This summer, Ukraine began a large-scale counteroffensive along the southern front, but so far has only managed to breach the first of several Russian defensive lines, despite its soldiers being trained and equipped by the West.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin appears to have amassed a preponderance of troops and equipment in the parts of Ukraine it controls, threatening vulnerable Ukrainian positions such as the reinforced pocket around the city of Avdiivka.
Further U.S. support for Ukraine appears to hinge on who the next Speaker of the House will be.
Should it be Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, it’s believed Ukraine will continue to be funded. However, should the speaker be either Jim Jordan or Kevin Hern, two legitimate contenders, the aid may dry up.
“Jordan said on Wednesday (Oct. 4) he would not support continued aid to Ukraine if elected speaker,” The Guardian reported.
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Additional funding from Congress required
According to Defense One, Army Secretary, Christine Wormuth, recently told reporters at the AUSA annual conference in Washington, “One thing that is really important in terms of the munitions in particular and our ability to support both potentially the Israelis and the Ukrainians simultaneously, is additional funding from Congress, to be able to increase our capacity … to expand production and then to also pay for the munitions themselves,” adding that, “We need additional support from Congress.”
With the speaker role vacant, Congress will have a hard time taking action, however Biden has taken steps to show support for the Israelis.
According to a press release published Sunday by the U.S. Central Command the U.S. is moving one of its aircraft carrier strike groups to the Eastern Mediterranean, and, also on Sunday, on a call between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden reportedly said additional security assistance was on its way, without detailing what the additional assistance was.
It appears as though a new speaker will need to be elected before Israel receives any substantial American support.
Currently, the role is being temporarily filled by Rep. Patrick McHenery (R-N.C.) who has limited powers.
Questions are swirling however whether or not McHenry can receive intelligence briefings “and lawmakers are worried bills that include Israeli aid or resolutions in support of Israel will be delayed until McHenry is replaced by a House-approved speaker,” Deseret News reported.
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The terrorist attacks on Israel, supporting Ukraine in its war against Russian invasion as well as domestic crises are competing for the attention of American lawmakers.
“But whatever Israel needs, those requests will run headlong into the dysfunction and uncertainty enveloping Capitol Hill, as the House grapples with selecting a new leader and both chambers race to avoid a government shutdown just weeks away,” Politico reported.
Of top priority for the Pentagon is ramping up weapons manufacturing, as the U.S continues to deplete its stock of munitions, ground vehicles, and guided bombs.
Wormuth told reporters in Washington that the “lack of predictability around our budget is a huge problem, particularly in light of the incredibly challenging security environment where we’re doing everything we’re doing in Ukraine, we’re working to keep up with the pacing challenge of China, and now we see what’s happening in Israel,” adding that, “Having predictable funding would help a lot.”
Meanwhile, more aid for Ukraine is a politically toxic issue for House Republicans as more and more lawmakers turn against any new funding.
“Any funding for Ukraine should be redirected to Israel immediately,” Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, posted on X on Monday.
Also on Monday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed sending more resource and intelligence support to Israel in addition to several other strategic American allies.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, McConnell wrote, “As we have seen in Ukraine, failure to act decisively can prolong the conflict and compound the costs of war,” adding that, “There is still time to act. Congress has the opportunity this fall to provide emergency appropriations to the Defense Department so that it can assist partners like Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, as well as invest in our own military capabilities.”