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Ukraine's aid struggles will worsen if McCarthy is ousted

Ukraine's aid struggles will worsen if McCarthy is ousted
Ukraine's aid struggles | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take to kick off your week and a challenging week indeed for President Zelensky as we start to see more pushback on the ability to continue to support the Ukrainians in defending themselves against the ongoing Russian invasion.

A few different stories here. The most meaningful one being the push against Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, particularly around support for Ukraine aid. And if McCarthy goes down, that is a big hit to the ability to get additional Ukrainian aid approved over the coming months. Any future speaker that sees that the conservatives of the GOP were prepared to take out Kevin McCarthy for willingness to work with the Democrats and get Ukrainian funding done separately would certainly mean that his replacement is going to be very hard pressed to put forward legislation that would continue to fund them. So this has become a big political football in the United States. Republicans, now identified Republicans, a majority say that too much aid is going from the United States. Ukraine should be significantly reduced, if not cut off entirely. Democrats, those numbers are also going up, but they're still in the minority, about 30% and independents more like 40 to 50.

But that's very, very different from where aid to Ukraine was three months ago, six months ago, twelve months ago, not aligned with President Biden, not aligned with what had been a bipartisan consensus. And while there's a lot of economic aid that goes from Ukraine, from Europe to Ukraine, the military support comes overwhelmingly from the United States. So this is a very serious problem, makes it very hard to imagine that Ukraine would be able to engage in a second offensive next year. And, of course, that means that the land that they presently occupy is the land that they look to be occupying for at least the near term, foreseeable future. That's one point.

Secondly, Canada, which has been one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine with a large Ukrainian population, ethnic Ukrainian population, that's politically very salient in Canada. They had their speaker of the Canadian parliament forced to resign after introducing and celebrating a man as a war hero that had fought with a Nazi unit in World War II. It is very clear that the speaker had no idea that that was his background. And he comes from northern Ontario. He knows nothing about foreign policy. But hugely embarrassing for the Trudeau government and for a government that has been, again, very, very outspoken in what they're willing to provide for the Ukrainians. And if you oppose that, you now have a lot of grist for your mill.

And then finally, Robert Fico, the former PM of Slovakia had been forced out for corruption, just had an election. Parliamentary election. His party came in front. They will form a coalition in the coming weeks and he ran on a left wing Slovak populist platform, but also on a strongly pro-Russian platform and has said that there will be no more military aid coming from Slovakia to Ukraine. That doesn't actually matter. They don't provide very much that they did. That matter was just at the beginning. And also, it's not going to prevent the EU from ongoing economic support. The Slovaks will be bought off, especially in coalition. But these are significant pieces in showing a level of fatigue for supporting the ongoing Ukraine war. It is a meaningful effort. It is tens and tens of billions of dollars in euros and no end to the war in sight. So increasingly you're seeing voices saying, well, how might one go about negotiation?

And of course, most publicly, the wealthiest man in the world, Elon Musk, who just over the last couple of days was posting pro-Kremlin propaganda, going after Zelensky. An enormous turnaround for a man who had done among the most of anyone to support the Ukrainians in providing his own Starlink system, ostensibly just for humanitarian purposes. But he knew very well it was being used and supported it being used to help defend the Ukrainians from invasion made a big difference. He's not there now. Now he's saying this war needs to end, the aid needs to end and has been supporting and promoting a lot of pro-Russian and anti Ukrainian accounts.

So you put all of that together.I do think that this is a much more challenging set of headwinds for Zelensky and for the Ukrainian people trying to defend themselves. Now, what does that all mean? Well, it's not going to affect the EU accession process, which continues to move and will provide a lot of economic support and promote a lot of economic reform in Ukraine, which is necessary. And the Russians are not going to be able to suddenly turn on their own offensive because they don't have the troops available. They haven't yet put forward a new mobilization and Putin is unlikely to do that until after his own internal parliamentary elections in the coming year. And once you do that, you still need to train them.

So I would say we're probably a minimum of a year before the Russians would be able to make significant additional gains against Ukraine in the worst case scenario for the Ukrainians. Also, the Ukrainians have had some successes, not in terms of taking territory, but in their ability to target the Black Sea fleet and their ability to engage in successful drone strikes against Crimea occupied by Russia as well as against Russian territory, the Russian homeland itself. They've also been able to get their own ships out into the Black Sea, which means more food and fertilizer coming from Ukraine, even though that deal that had been brokered by the UN and Turkey has fallen apart. So, I mean, these are not end times for the Ukrainians by any means, but it is very hard to see anything that looks like what the Ukrainians would describe as a victory, meaning at the minimum, pushing the Russians out of all the territory that they have taken of Ukraine since February 24th. And I'm not even thinking about things like war reparations and the rest.

And in that regard, you know, the need for the Americans and NATO to sit down with the Ukrainian government and try to figure out how one might, over time get to a cease fire, what can be provided to the Ukrainians that would allow them to and accept a reality where all of their land is not coming back to them? Politically, that's almost inconceivable right now. I can't see any Ukrainian leader that would be able to sell that to his own population. Maybe the exception is if there was full NATO accession as a member that ensured that the West would actually defend non-occupied Ukraine from further assault. But the Americans are not there right now and that gets harder to promote the closer we get to the upcoming elections. There's also risks and that of course, because it means yes, indeed, the West would actually be defending Ukraine from further Russian strikes. So this is looking increasingly difficult in terms of endgame and more problematic for the Biden administration and the coherence of NATO.

That is the analysis as I see it. And we'll keep following this very closely of course. I hope everyone’s doing well, and I'll talk to you all real soon.


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