WASHINGTON — With any Ukraine aid package stalled in Congress, State Department officials warned senators on Wednesday that the United States’ alliances in Europe could be in jeopardy if new funding is not approved soon.

“This is the wrong time to walk away,” James O’Brien, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “Ukraine is winning. It’s already taken back half the territory Putin has seized since February of 2022.”

O’Brien and other witnesses pressed Congress to pass the Biden administration’s proposed $105 billion foreign aid package, which includes $61.4 billion for Ukraine and $14.3 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas.

He said not passing new aid would play into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hands and risk failing at U.S. foreign policy objectives. If Ukraine loses the war against Russia, then Putin would likely push into Poland and the Baltic states next, he said.

The supplemental package could also provide much-needed humanitarian assistance for Ukrainians reeling from the conflict, said Erin McKee, assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The package would provide $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for those in Ukraine, among other locations like Israel and Gaza.

“The besieged people of Ukraine are fighting for their country’s survival as a democratic state,” McKee said. “They are also fighting for basic needs, such as food, water, medicine and electricity.”

Without new aid, she said USAID will either have to reduce the number of Ukrainians receiving humanitarian aid by 75% or cease the programs altogether. Ukraine is unable to provide adequate funding for humanitarian aid, McKee said, as most of the country’s annual budget is dedicated to the war effort. 

More than 9,600 civilians have been killed during the war as of September 2023, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

While House Republicans led by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) have expressed opposition to a bill with joint funding for Israel and Ukraine, the Democratic-controlled Senate appears poised to support a package for both nations. But, some Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are resisting efforts to give more funding for Ukraine.

In a contentious exchange, Paul pushed back on O’Brien’s assertion that the supplemental package could benefit the U.S. economy by reinvigorating its industrial base. If passed, the supplemental would allow Ukraine to buy arms and military supplies from the U.S.

Paul suggested that enriching weapon makers through the supplemental would be “reprehensible.” Alternatively, the Biden administration, he said, should consider facilitating negotiations between Russia and Ukraine to end the conflict.

In response, O’Brien rejected the idea of negotiations since Putin is “not serious” about ending the war.

“You don’t have a willing partner on the other side,” he said. “You’re asking for a monologue, not diplomacy.”

Putin wants to wait and see who wins the 2024 U.S. presidential election, he said. While President Joe Biden has maintained support for Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022, former President Donald Trump has bragged that he can end the war in “24 hours” if elected in 2024.

But most Senate Republicans at the hearing did not express opposition to new funding for Ukraine. In his final remarks, committee Ranking Member James Risch (R-Idaho) reaffirmed his past and present commitment to giving Ukraine the materials necessary to win the war.

“You’ve got to escalate. If you don’t escalate you’re going to lose,” Risch said. “Let’s act like we want to win this and move it as quickly as we can.”

With a government shutdown looming, however, committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) worried that it’s less likely that a supplemental request will pass Congress this month. Recent demands by Republicans may complicate efforts to pass new aid.

On Monday, Senate Republicans released multiple U.S. border security proposals as a condition for the U.S. sending new aid to Ukraine. The proposal, released by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jim Lankford (R-Okla.), would make it more difficult for migrants to qualify for asylum and resume construction on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border wall — a non-starter for many Senate Democrats.

Officials urged lawmakers to prioritize money for Ukraine to support the U.S. national security interests in Eastern Europe.

“If you leave when the job is half down, you’re going to have to go back and do it again,” O’Brien said. “Right now, Ukrainians are willing to do this job because it’s in their territory. If we abandon them, then somebody else is going to have to do this job later and it’s likely to be us.”

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