Biden Challenged by Softening Public Support for Arming Ukraine

While she and her allies have been on the margins of the Republican Party on Ukraine, the center of gravity may be shifting. Mr. Trump lashed out at Mr. Biden last week for visiting Kyiv instead of East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a recent toxic train derailment. In a fund-raising video, Mr. Trump said, “we’re teetering on the brink of World War III” thanks to Mr. Biden and promised to “end the Ukraine conflict in 24 hours.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, his most formidable potential challenger for the 2024 nomination, sought to match Mr. Trump, criticizing what he called the “open-ended blank check” for Ukraine and saying “I don’t think it’s in our interest” to be involved in the fight for territory seized by Russia.

By contrast, the announced and unannounced Republican presidential candidates who do support aid to Ukraine, like former Vice President Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, trail far behind those two front-runners.

Mr. Surabian said a rematch between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump would sharpen the nation’s debate over Ukraine. “If Donald Trump is the nominee, I 100 percent expect him to prosecute the case against Biden directly on the Ukraine issue,” he said. “I think this will become a centerpiece issue between him and Biden.”

So far, Congress has approved $113 billion in military, economic, humanitarian and other aid for Ukraine, not all of which has been spent yet. Anticipating trouble from the new Republican House, the White House and lame-duck Democratic majority last winter pushed through an aid package large enough to last until summer. At the current rate of spending, it would run out by mid-July, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A House Democrat who asked not to be identified speaking critically of the White House expressed concern that the president’s team did not fully grasp how Americans viewed the aid. While they support Ukraine in principle, this Democrat said, the way the aid has been doled out through a steady drumbeat of announcements of another $500 million or $1 billion every week or two exacerbates the sense that endless funds are heading out of the country.

Philip D. Zelikow, a University of Virginia scholar and former State Department counselor, said military aid was more popular than economic aid because much of it is actually spent on arms produced by American defense firms. But he said that economic aid was critical to rebuilding Ukraine, and he argued that seizing $300 billion in Russian assets in the West for reconstruction would ease the burden on the American taxpayer.


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