Washington D.C./01.11.23/Turan: Top Biden administration officials on Tuesday warned senators that if they fail linking the funding of ongoing wars in Israel and Ukraine Vladimir Putin will win, and 'he will not stop at Ukraine,' as they put it, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.
Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin argued against decoupling President Joe Biden's $106 billion supplemental request for Israel, Ukraine and the Pacific, warning that Russia would prevail without continued U.S. assistance and would have implications outside of Europe.
Though many lawmakers in both parties support a joint package, congressional Republicans are reportedly skeptical of additional Ukraine aid and have threatened to sink the plan. And newly elected speaker Mike Johnson is reportedly pushing an Israel-only package.
"Allowing Russia to prevail with Iran support will simply embolden both Moscow and Iran," Blinken said in his address to the senators. He noted that since the West cut off Russia's traditional means of supplying its military, it's turned more and more to Iran for assistance. In return, Moscow has supplied Iran with increasingly advanced military technology which poses a threat to Israel security.
"Russia could stop this [fight in Ukraine], but it doesn't.. Instead, to the contrary, its government is hosting Hamas for talks in Moscow. Iran is sending UAVs to Russia to attack Ukrainian civilians. So we're seeing the profound connections here," Blinken said.
He later went on to elaborate: "It's a two-way street: It's both the assistance that Iran is providing to Russia for use in Ukraine to further its aggression, but it's also increasingly technology that Russia is providing to Iran to make its own inventory more sophisticated that could and will almost certainly be used either against Israel or, for that matter, potentially against us, against our forces, against our personnel, either directly or via Iranian proxies that are in the region."
Blinken also argued that Biden's funding request will enable the U.S. to tackle grave humanitarian needs created by autocrats and terrorists, "as well as by conflict and natural disasters in Ukraine, in Gaza, in Sudan, in Armenia, and other places around the world."
"Food, water, medicine, and other essential humanitarian assistance resilience must be able to flow into Gaza. Civilians must be able to stay out of harm’s way, a task that’s made even more difficult as Hamas uses civilians as human shields, and humanitarian pauses must be considered," he said.
Humanitarian assistance is also vital to Israel’s security, Blinken added. Providing immediate aid and protection for Palestinian civilians in this conflict is a necessary foundation for finding partners in Gaza who have a different vision for the future than Hamas – and who are willing to help make it real."
Austin also argued that Americans need to understand that what happens in Ukraine and Israel matters to the United States. "It affects our national security, as well," he said. "We also have to remind ourselves that these countries are in a fight. They're fighting every day, and there are people dying every day. In Ukraine, Putin continues to attack civilians and commit despicable war crimes."
According to him, not sending aid to Ukraine increases the likelihood that American troops might one day face combat against Putin’s forces in defense of a NATO ally in Europe: "If we pull the rug out from under [Ukraine] now, Putin will only get stronger.”
"Today's battles against aggression and terrorism will define global security for years to come. Only firm American leadership can ensure that tyrants, thugs and terrorists worldwide are not emboldened to commit more aggression and more atrocities."
Blinken agreed: “it would do both terrible harm to our values, but also to our core interests” to leave Ukraine out in the cold.
He concluded: “If we start to peel off pieces of this package, [adversaries will ] see that; they’ll understand that we are playing whack-a-mole while they cooperate increasingly and pose an ever greater threat to our security as well as that of allies and partners.”