US emerges as weakest link in Western public support for Ukraine

Donald Trump insists he could end Ukraine war in 24 hours

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Just over one year on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, generating anguish from the west and those critical of despot Vladimir Putin’s decision to try and take control of the European nation, and discussion has begun on how much has been spent so far in supporting President Volodymyr Zelensky and his embattled country. Billions have been sent in aid, while infrastructures updated and military support offered as powerful leaders across the likes of Britain, the EU and US all try and ensure Ukraine’s sovereignty is protected. But with living standards being hit, as well as question marks as to the overwhelming expense of shielding a population of 43 million, some are beginning to question whether the money would be best spent elsewhere.

Among those taking aim is Tucker Carlson, the former Donald Trump backer, who is often equally castigated by those on the Left as vehemently as he is heralded by champions on the Right.

He claimed Washington would be better off spending the money at home, as opposed to giving it to Ukraine, sentiments that are beginning to be reciprocated by his fellow Americans.

It comes as US President Joe Biden, a regular target for Mr Carlson’s vexed rants, remains unequivocal in throwing his weight behind Mr Zelensky’s campaign to protect Ukraine, spending somewhere between $50billion (£41.6bn) and $100billion (£83.2bn) since the invasion occurred on February 24 last year.

Here, explores how the US public’s support of Ukraine has waned compared to others in the West, and how much Washington has splurged in aid.

Public opinion appears to be swaying towards the US spending less on the Ukraine conflict, with many critics beginning to argue that due to financial constraints facing them as they carry out their daily lives, being unable to afford bills was more important to the average American.

Data was collected that seemingly backed this up, including a poll last month from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that found the American public’s wishes to help Ukraine had softened.

It found that around 48 percent say they favour the US providing weapons to Ukraine, while 29 percent opposed it and 22 percent said they were neither.

In May of last year, 60 percent were in favour of weapons being given. It also claimed that 37 percent were in favour of Mr Biden giving government funds directly to Ukraine, while 38 percent were against it.

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The shift in opinion is major when compared with other western nations, including the likes of Britain where public support of the UK’s efforts in supporting Ukraine have actually hardened.

According to an Ipsos poll published on February 24, the war’s anniversary, nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) of Britons quizzed supported the UK’s current role in the Ukraine conflict. This was an improvement of eight percentage points when last asked in October, 2022.

Britons too were backing the Government to send more humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, to Ukraine, with 81 percent of those polled agreeing. A further 64 percent wanted more weapons to be sent, and 60 percent felt more refugees should be allowed to come to the country.

Other countries remaining in favour of long-term political and military support for Ukraine by NATO and the EU included Poland, where 82 percent backed those measures an Ipsos survey found between December 16 and 21.

However, that figure was only 42 percent in Germany.

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And it appears the thawing of relations between Americans and sending aid is a view shared by many Republican Party members, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

He told Punchbowl News in October that due to economic issues in the US, families would be reluctant to maintain the high levels of its spending.

The politician said: “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine. They just won’t do it.”

This view was shared by the likes of Nikki Haley and Trump, both of who are reportedly seeking the Republican presidential nomination to run for the White House in 2024. Speaking on NBC’s Today show, Ms Haley said she’d back sending weapons to Ukraine but “not money”. Mr Trump said the US was guilty of overspending on the conflict.

Prior to the anniversary, the US was Ukraine’s biggest backer, offering around $80billion (£66.8bn) in aid, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a global tracker of aid sent to Kyiv, found.

This was made up of around $46.6billion (£38.9bn) in military aid, well ahead of any other nation on the planet. Britain was in second when it came to offering military aid, pledging approximately $5.1billion (£4.25bn), with the European Union offering $3.3billion (£2.75bn).

The remainder of the cash pledged was used for humanitarian aid, including safe drinking water, medical supplies and much-needed necessities, while other support was offered through financial aid.

Monica Duffy Toft, a professor of international politics and director of the Center for Strategic Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Tufts University, described the provisions offered by the US as “immense”, and that it shows Washington and its allies “see the stakes in the war’s outcome”.

In a piece for The Conversation in January, the military aid was hailed as “staggering, especially when compared to how the US has supported other conflicts in modern history”. The professor likened it to the amounts spent during the Vietnam War.

But she felt the public mood had shifted when it came to the size of Washington’s contribution.

She continued: “For Western allies in Europe, particularly those like Poland that are physically closest to Ukraine, the war has come to be seen as existential – seriously threatening the stability of international politics and the organizations, like the United Nations, that were set up after World War II to prevent a third world war.

“Americans do not face the immediate threat of a spillover ground war across borders like people in Europe could face. But most Americans still continue to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.”

Yet, voices within the Republican Party have grown to demand the US “cut back on foreign aid”, with some concerned that originally Ukraine would fall relatively quickly to Moscow, and with it, the weapons Washington had supplied.

Professor Toft detailed a November 2022 Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll which noted a huge drop in support for US engagement in Ukraine among Republicans, dropping from 80 percent in March 2022 to 55 percent in December 2022.

She added: “And although there is bipartisan support, some Republicans — in particular conservatives aligned with former President Trump’s isolationist ‘America First’ stance — have argued that the US cannot afford to support Ukraine and also address high levels of inflation at home.

“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, said in November 2022 that with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, ‘not another penny will go to Ukraine’.”

Whether the US will cut its funding to Ukraine remains up for debate, but there are some politicians in Washington who believe it was time Europe itself got hold of the Russian problem.

Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for Europe to step up its game when quizzed about the Ukraine war in October. At the time, many representatives were seeking votes in the November elections.

According to Politico, he said: “Our allies need to start addressing the problem in their own backyard before they ask us for any more involvement.”

The Republican said while it was “horrible what the Russians are doing,” he believed that China and drug cartels in the US were “more threatening to the US than what’s going on in Ukraine”.

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