Volodymyr Ohryzko, ex-Foreign Minister of Ukraine, head of the Center for Russian Studies
The Republicans have finally realized that further blocking aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan is self-harming to their election campaign
22.04.2024 21:20

The instability over the Ukraine air package that had dragged on for almost eight months now appears about to be resolved as the House of Representatives has finally voted on the legislation that would greenlight assistance to Ukraine, as well as to Israel and Taiwan. The move comes as President Zelensky said just recently that without American support, his country is going to have a really hard time.

The Ukraine aid bill lays down over $60 billion in assistance. In particular, $13.8 billion will pay for the procurement of the latest weapons systems, defense equipment and services. Another $23 billion is earmarked for replenishing US arsenals. Part of the aid will be provided in the form of a loan. More specifically, $7.85 billion worth of economic assistance will be given in the form of loans. At the same time, after November 2024, the US President will be able to write off 50% of the debt on these loans, and from January 1, 2026 - 100% of the debt. In addition, according to the draft legislation, the head of the White House will be entitled to supply Ukraine with ATACMS long-range missiles.

Just before the critical vote in the House, Ukrinform recorded an interview with Volodymyr Ohryzko, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2007-2009) who now heads the Center for Russian Studies. He reflected on the long-awaited legislation and provided his view of the opportunities it is offering.

- We understand that there is only one thought running through your head right now: what matters most is to have it approved. Actually, we also understand that we, in fact, have no other choice. But is this what Ukraine hoped to get in the end, Volodymyr Stanislavovych?

- I will put it this way; we are now in a situation where we only have to thank you for any help provided. And the more so when it comes to clear and explicit provisions and more than 60 billion dollars. This will mean that we will get everything that is really critical for us now. Even partially in the form of a loan - it does not matter at all. Moreover, the proposed bill stipulates that the Congress, if necessary, can write off the debt after a short period of time, after a year, which, I know without a doubt, will be done. So, to put it briefly, we are quite satisfied, even very satisfied, with this option.

The only question is, will hardline Trumpists suddenly emerge on the day of the vote, starting to exploit the procedure that provides for the possibility of discussion, amendments and the like, in order to delay this process again. That is to say, anything can happen or not happen. On the other hand, Speaker Johnson has a lot of opportunities to structure the discussion and vote in such a way so that any risk is at least reduced if not removed altogether.

Be that as it may, we will wait with hope for what happens on Saturday or Sunday. Now information has allegedly surfaced that, perhaps, the vote on Ukraine will take place on the last day of the week. Let's be patient, there are actually a few days left. US military aid for Ukraine will definitely be there, and this is what matters most.

- You mentioned Trumpists, from whom “surprises” can be expected. But that's not all –the draft law will afterward need to be voted on again in the Senate. And, preferably, without amendments. Otherwise, the document will be returned to the House of Representatives, and it is uncertain what will happen next. So, are there any concerns about the legislation passing through the Senate?

- Well, if this draft law as proposed by Mr. Johnson is not amended, then it actually contains the same basic provisions as approved by the Senate earlier. So I don't think there will be anything extraordinary. In the final result, if some minor amendments are made by the House of Representatives, this should not be the reason for not voting in the Senate, because after all, there is a pro-Ukrainian majority formed there, which, I think, will make a favorable decision.

But it can certainly drag on as well. So let's hope for the best, while realizing that the final part has already come forth.

- Why have Donald Trump and his supporters suddenly changed their mind about aid for Ukraine? Was Iran's recent attack on Israel the reason why? Maybe not only that; maybe something else altogether? Maybe it was planned this way from the beginning? But at what price...

- Iran's attack on Israel is definitely not related to this at all. Johnson traveled to speak with Trump a few days prior to these events. The issue is not about that. The issue is that Republicans finally realized that further blocking the aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan will be self-harmful to their election campaign.

In addition, let's not forget that for Trump, very bad time has come where he will be caught in a judicial vice, and the vice can crush him. Therefore, playing on two fronts of criticism - both regarding the provision of foreign aid and what is happening in America itself... Well, it is counterproductive for Trump himself.

- By the way, a secret document of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on destabilizing the West in order to establish a "new world order" has become publicly available. Why has the "leak" happened now, on the same day as Johnson's statement, and not much earlier? Don't you see the connection here? If so, what does this mean?

- The fact that such documents are being prepared is in no way sensational. Trust me as the head of the Center for Russian Studies. Documents on how to destabilize the West have been prepared in the Russian Federation for decades. Not for years, but for decades. And there are a million evidences of this.

What's more, even the authors of such studies themselves constantly talk about it publicly. I will just mention one surname - Karaganov (for example, Sergey Karaganov, Russian imperialist and fascist, honorary chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policis, one of the founders of Putin's favorite Valdai Club, has repeatedly called for a preventive nuclear strike on European countries. - Ed.) This individual has acted for years as the main foreign policy strategist in the Kremlin, writing all these things, especially regarding destabilization of the West. And these things are published. Yes, this is not a document of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, but it is the Foreign Policy Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. And believe me, the bureaucrats from the ministry definitely use all these things in order to put them in their documents.

And here's why it happened right now... In fact, this is in order to provide even more arguments to those who vote for bolstering support for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. This is an additional drop that can influence the opinions of those who will make decisions. And this is traditionally done by special services in order to add a little, as they say, honey to the kutia at the right moment, so that things turn out better.

- Let's go back to what we started with: why the decision on aid was divided…

- Most likely, that was in order to, theoretically, empower those who want to vote for aid to, say, Israel and not to vote for aid to Ukraine. There are some in the Republican Party. Well, you are within your rights not to vote. Because if it is in a single package, then it turns out that you either vote "yes" for everything, or "no" for everything. And that, I repeat it, is a pretty hard sell to some Republicans in the House of Representatives.

However, this will not affect the overall effectiveness of the vote, because there will be enough Republican Party members of parliament who will vote for aid to Ukraine. That is, I would say, a technological trick in order to satisfy everyone.

- As soon as the bill is approved, Joe Biden vowed to sign it into law immediately. So, if everything goes as it should, how quickly will Ukraine receive aid from the USA?

- It seems to me that the situation in this regard is not too complicated, because in fact it will mean that the US Ministry of Defense will have the opportunity to transfer the weapons already available in stock. That is, it is only about the time those armaments will be delivered to Ukraine. Because then, with the money that Congress will allocate, American companies will quickly manufacture those weapons, most likely, already newer than the ones that are about to arrive in Ukraine, and the Defense Department will replenish their own stockpiles. Therefore, in fact, it will take a few weeks, no longer.

- We have already talked about weapons, and I cannot but ask you about a separate provision of the bill stipulating that the White House should transfer long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine “as soon as possible”. At the same time, the document states that Biden can postpone this decision if it "will harm the national security interests of the United States." What does it mean?

- In fact, the answer lies in the phrase "Biden can delay deliveries if he determines that the transfer of ATACMS will harm US national security interests." That is, everything will depend on the head of the White House: he will transfer if he wants, and not transfer if he doesn’t. If he does not want to, then he will be obliged to explain his decision to the Congressional Defense Committee, the Senate Committee on Appropriations and International Relations and the House Committee on Appropriations and International Relations.

To put it briefly, this gives Republicans, again from a purely domestic political perspective, an opportunity to criticize Biden on the one hand. Like, you see, Johnson proposed such an option, and that's why we, Republicans, demand that Democrat Biden supply Ukraine with long-range missiles. And he, so-and-so, is delaying the decision, he fears the risk of escalation, but he is wrong, so we will scold him for this, pressure him and so on. Now everything that is done in America must be considered exclusively through the prism of the interests of each political force and that’s it. That is, this is a certain trick on the part of Johnson to get Biden “stretched out”.

Will Ukraine get these missiles as a result? I hope so, hope that this will help convince Biden. After all, these armaments will allow us to speed up the defeat of Russia. The recent "explosive" events in Dzhankoy, Crimea, where a significant amount of equipment important to the enemy had been destroyed, is a shining example of this.

- And the last thing... Fingers crossed, we hope that this weekend we will finally see good news from across the ocean. Will this mean that the US is finally getting back "in the big game"; how will allies, particularly in Europe, respond? And, of course, how will Moscow respond?

- I think that, despite the fact that the USA will return back to the "active phase", the Europeans themselves will now think more about their own security. And this is a welcome sign. This means that there will be no more of this infantilism, saying that America will always defend us. Europeans must appreciate that the enemy in the person of Russia is nearby, and that it can attack, kill, destroy at any moment. This will therefore mean that the Europeans, one way or another, will have to put more intensive effort into their defense, and thus into helping Ukraine. And this, I believe, is a great positive shift in consciousness amongst European partners.

As for Russia... As soon as the House of Representatives votes on the Ukraine aid bill, there will be “howling in the swamps” about more nuclear threats. And everyone, from Medvedev and Zakharova to Shoigu and Putin, in addition to propagandists like Solovyov, Kiselyov, Simonyan and so on, will be raging here. This is our hope, that the West will finally stop fearing this. However, the fear remains there, and it’s manic, which is sad.

Myroslav Liskovych

Photo: Gennadiy Minchenko, Volodymyr Tarasov

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