Reaganists vs. Trumpists: how elections will change US policy towards Ukraine

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Reaganists vs. Trumpists: how elections will change US policy towards Ukraine
Reaganists vs. Trumpists: how elections will change US policy towards Ukraine
11 November, 15:25Photo: Reuters
The victory of the Republicans in the midterm elections will not lead to a revision of the American policy of helping Ukraine, although it can also limit the freedom of the hands of the Biden administration

As you know, on November 8, midterm elections to Congress were held in the United States. The Democratic majority in both houses was very fragile, and now, according to preliminary data, the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives. The final results of the elections to the Senate will be summed up only in December, after the second round in the state of Georgia. How will the new configuration of forces affect the American policy of supporting Ukraine? - experts of the online publication Re-Russia understand.

Republicans split over military aid to Ukraine

In May 2022, during the adoption of a bill to allocate a record $40 billion to Ukraine to fight Russian aggression, 57 Republican deputies voted against. Now, with a victory in one of the chambers of Congress, the Republicans will get leverage on the Democrats, who will have to bargain for the allocation of funds to help Kiev in exchange, for example, for financing the fight against illegal migration across the Mexican border. In any case, this may complicate the adoption of new bills related to support for Ukraine.

Military assistance to Ukraine has become one of the topics of the election campaign. If the Democrats declared the need for further support for Kyiv almost unanimously, then in the Republican Party there were votes both “for” and “against”. A month before the election, the head of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, said that if his party wins, Ukraine should not count on the unconditional support of Congress. In his opinion, America is in for a recession, and therefore Americans should pay more attention to domestic problems - high inflation or the challenges of illegal migration. Another senior Republican, Michael McCall of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the opposite statement (“We have to give the Ukrainians what they need. When we give them what they need, they win”) and called for the supply of missiles to Ukraine. longer range than those the Biden administration has so far been willing to supply. Another Republican, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, has visited Ukraine numerous times and co-chairs and co-founds the Senate Ukraine Caucus. He was not nominated for this election, and his departure from politics is seen as a potential blow to pro-Ukraine policies.

Differences among high-ranking members of the Republican Party are evidence of an internal discussion between the traditional conservative wing of the party, whose members are determined to continue helping Kyiv, and Trump supporters, who are mainly united by pro-Russian and isolationist sentiments: they believe that Europe should support Ukraine first. Daniel Fried, a distinguished member of the Atlantic Council, believes that if the Republicans get a majority in both houses, or at least in one, then in foreign policy they will be divided into neo-Reaganist and Trumpist factions. The first, in a coalition with the Democrats, will advocate for further support for Kyiv, and the second for greater distance from the Ukrainian conflict and shifting the burden of costs to European allies.

In the camp of Democrats, too, there is no agreement

However, there is no unity among the Democrats either: here the party of aid to Ukraine is opposed by the party of the “peace agreement”. Thus, late in October, a group of 30 Democratic deputies, mostly from the most left-wing members of the Democratic Party, addressed the White House with a call for direct dialogue with Russia, designed to end the war. The Biden administration did not support this initiative, and the Democrats' letter was withdrawn by congressmen.

However, voters contribute to overcoming differences within both parties. So, a week before the elections, the Republicans, who called for the termination of aid to Kyiv, began to soften and correct their position. On November 6, Kevin McCartney clarified his October statement: “I am very supportive of Ukraine. But I think we should strive for accountability of the money we spend.”

To ease the pressure from Democrats and voters on the Republican Party, on the last Sunday before the election, Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rick Scott of Florida issued a special statement on the Ukrainian topic. “We think that we should continue to do everything possible to support Ukraine, which wants to protect its freedom and stop Russia from further expansion,” they said.

While the parties are arguing, two-thirds of Americans support Ukraine

The reason for these maneuvers was the fully consolidated support of Ukraine by the American population. Opinion polls conducted in early October by Reuters/Ipsos showed that 73% of Americans believe that the United States should continue to provide assistance to Ukraine even despite Russia's nuclear threats. However, among respondents of democratic orientation, this opinion is shared by 81%, while among Republicans - 66%. Thus, conditional factions of “neo-Reaganists” and “Trumpists” are also visible among the Republican voters. 66% of respondents said that Washington should continue to supply weapons to Kyiv, although in early August this number was only 51%. At the same time, the majority of respondents, 58%, fear that the situation is developing towards a nuclear war, and 65% believe that if Ukraine is provided with long-range weapons capable of hitting targets on Russian territory, this will lead to a new escalation of the conflict. At the same time, attention to Ukrainian events among Americans is declining: the number of respondents who believe that the war in Ukraine is a significant topic for American politics decreased in October to 35% from 40% in August. Opinion polls conducted by the University of Maryland show a similar picture.

With two-thirds of Americans in favor of continuing support for Kiev, Christina Hook of the University of Kennesaw said the midterm elections won't drastically change Ukraine's aid policy. Most American politicians will follow the mood of their constituents, and therefore after the election there will be bipartisan statements about the need to defeat Russia in order to preserve the global order. Doug Klein of the Atlantic Council also believes that due to public consensus, the election results will not affect further assistance to Kiev.

However, despite the fact that the principled positions are unlikely to change, in practice the Administration, which will no longer rely on the party majority, may face significant difficulties. And they will also have the opinion of voters as their source. While the Republican voter generally approves of support for Ukraine, 43% of Republican respondents believe that support is excessive, an August Gallup poll showed. For this reason, the Biden administration wants to pass a new bill to support Ukraine before January, when there will be an actual change in the composition of Congress. Given the opinion of their voters, the Republicans are likely to seek to reduce the aid package somewhat and accompany it with additional controls.

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