Putin ‘gains every day’ Congress fails to send Ukraine aid, top Biden official says

<span>The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan: ‘History is watching whether Speaker Johnson will put [the Senate foreign aid] bill on the floor.’</span><span>Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images</span>
The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan: ‘History is watching whether Speaker Johnson will put [the Senate foreign aid] bill on the floor.’Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin “gains every day” the US House does not pass a new aid package for Ukraine, Joe Biden’s national security adviser has warned, as its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, warned of dire outcomes unless Ukraine receives US military aid within one month.

Ahead of a crunch week in Washington that could end in a government shutdown – in part made possible by hardline Republican opposition to new support for Kyiv – Jake Sullivan told CNN that “the reality is that Putin gains every day that Ukraine does not get the resources it needs, and Ukraine suffers”.

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Sullivan pointed to “a strong bipartisan majority in the House standing ready to pass” an aid package for Ukraine “if it comes to the floor”.

The Democratic-held Senate has already passed a $95bn package of aid to Ukraine and other US allies, including Israel. But in the House, the Republican speaker, Mike Johnson, is under pressure from the pro-Trump far right of his party not to bring it to a vote.

In striking contrast to the division within the US Congress, European leaders met in Paris on Monday in a show of unity and support. “We are at a critical moment,” said the French president, Emmanuel Macron, warning that Moscow’s actions in recent weeks signalled that Russia could attack Nato states in the next few years. “Russia cannot win in Ukraine.”

In remarks at the Atlantic Council thinktank in Washington on Monday, the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said Johnson would be to blame if the US aid bill failed and Russia advanced on the battlefield.

“I’d like him to know that the whole world is watching what he would do and if the supplemental were not to pass and Ukraine was to suffer reversals on the battlefield it will be his responsibility,” said Sikorski, urging Johnson to allow the vote.

Speaking on the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Zelenskiy on Sunday said “millions will be killed without US aid” and told a conference in Kyiv that a US failure to pass new aid would “leave me wondering what world we are living in”.

The US has so far sent billions of dollars of aid and weapons, but with the pro-Russian Trump all but confirmed as the Republican nominee for president, large elements of the congressional GOP have fallen in behind him to block new Ukraine spending.

Ukrainian forces report shortages of weapons and ammunition, as a grinding stalemate gives way to Russian gains. On Sunday, Zelenskiy put the overall death toll among Ukrainian troops at 31,000.US officials were previously reported to have put it at 70,000.

Congress has been on holiday for two weeks and reconvenes on Wednesday. In order to approve Ukraine aid, rightwing House Republicans are also demanding spending on border and immigration reform – regardless of the fact that Senate Republicans this month sank a bipartisan border deal of their own which included it.

“History is watching whether Speaker Johnson will put [the Senate foreign aid] bill on the floor,” Sullivan said. “If he does, it will pass, will get Ukraine what it needs for Ukraine to succeed. If he doesn’t, then we will not be able to give Ukraine the tools required for it to stand up to Russia and Putin will be the major beneficiary of that.”

Many Republicans in the House do support Ukraine aid. A senior Republican member of the foreign relations committee called on Johnson to put the aid package on the floor for a vote or risk a party rebellion.

“Ukrainians have already died because we didn’t provide this aid eight months ago as we should have,” Brad Sherman of California told CNN. “I think that it’s up to Speaker Johnson to put this bill on the floor. It’ll pass it’ll pass by a strong vote. And he needs to do that so the aid flows in March.

“If he doesn’t, eventually Republicans will get tired of that obstructionism and will join Democrats in a discharge petition” – a congressional manoeuvre, rarely used, that can bypass blockages.

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“But that’s a very bulky way to try to pass a bill. It’s only happened once in my 28 years in Congress. I suspect that we’ll be getting the aid to Ukraine in April, unless Speaker Johnson is willing to relent.”

Ukraine, Sherman said, was a “bulwark between Russia and Nato countries that we are obligated to defend, notwithstanding what Trump may have said”.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to refuse to defend Nato countries he deems not to have paid enough to maintain the alliance, going so far as to say he would encourage Russia to attack such targets.

The defence of Ukraine, Sherman said, “is just critical to us. They can’t do it. They haven’t been able to do it this last month, because we have not provided the artillery shells and other systems.”