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Proposed congressional spending plan leaves out military aid for Ukraine and Israel

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A spending plan is more than just a financial document. It's essentially a statement of values - right? - spelling out what you're willing to invest in and what you are not. Over the weekend, the new speaker of the House unveiled his plan to fund the government. The full House is expected to vote on it tomorrow. And if Congress doesn't agree on something by the end of this week, the government will shut down.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Well, speaker Mike Johnson's proposal would temporarily extend funding for some federal agencies until late January and others through early February. But one of the most surprising things about the proposal is what it leaves out - military aid for Ukraine and Israel. Susan Glasser has written in The New Yorker about the Biden administration's effort to arm Ukraine's military, and she's here to talk about this Republican proposal. Good to have you back.

SUSAN GLASSER: Thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: We don't know whether this plan will pass. Some Republicans have already come out against it. But are you surprised that the speaker of the House would propose a package that does not include military support for two major U.S. allies, Ukraine and Israel?

GLASSER: Well, it is pretty remarkable. But, you know, remember that this new speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, is not only the least-experienced speaker of the House in 140 years, but has a record of voting against military aid for Ukraine ever since the Russian invasion in February of last year. So, you know, it's consistent with his own personal beliefs. And more strikingly, it reflects, I think, the direction of travel where the House Republican Conference - which is much Trumpier (ph), if you will - much more part of the kind of America first, neo isolationist wing of the Republican Party than even the Senate Republicans who've remained committed to supporting Ukraine in its fight.

SHAPIRO: Well, the White House has been pushing back against this proposal. Here's what National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said at a briefing today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAKE SULLIVAN: The United States' national interest will be deeply harmed if we are not able to secure and sustain funding for Israel, Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific and the border.

SHAPIRO: Now, as you say, the speaker has opposed Ukraine funding from very early on. But is there something to the Republican argument that after more than a year of fighting in Ukraine, there needs to be some kind of plan for how this ends as the U.S. keeps handing over billions of dollars?

GLASSER: Well, I would say that what's very striking is just the abrupt reversals in the lack of ability for the United States right now to make and honor long-term commitment to its foreign policy. President Biden, from last year on, has said that the United States would be supporting Ukraine for, quote, "as long as it takes." But in reality, our politics makes it almost impossible to make that kind of commitment. Donald Trump is not only the Republican frontrunner for 2024, but were he to come back to office, I don't think there is anyone who thinks that the United States would maintain its commitment to Ukraine.

SHAPIRO: The U.S. can no longer be trusted to uphold its long-term commitments. What does that mean broadly, geopolitically, if America's allies can no longer count on total backing from the people in Congress who control the purse strings?

GLASSER: Well, I think it's a very significant factor really in international politics today, Ari. I just spent a week in Berlin earlier this month and, you know, this is what the German government and other Western allies of the United States are very concerned about is, you know, the long-term viability of their partnership with the United States. Obviously, Donald Trump would have a very different policy toward Germany in particular and NATO in general, not just Ukraine and Russia. So I think it's the inconstancy of the American superpower that is its own geopolitical risk right now.

SHAPIRO: And just briefly, I wonder if you could say what this would mean for the military effort in Ukraine and Israel, what it would mean for those wars if this package were to pass.

GLASSER: Well, you know, I noticed Bloomberg quoting a Pentagon spokesperson the other day saying there's only $1 billion left in the U.S. military assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine is still in the middle of an ongoing counteroffensive against Russian invaders.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

GLASSER: So it's very significant if the U.S. just runs out of steam to support Ukraine.

SHAPIRO: Susan Glasser of The New Yorker, thank you so much.

GLASSER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tinbete Ermyas
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.