Sen. Warner Says US Troops Could End Up ‘In Conflict’ If $61 Billion Ukraine Aid Package Not Passed

Sen. Warner Says US Troops Could End Up ‘In Conflict’ If $61 Billion Ukraine Aid Package Not Passed
Senator and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) speaks during a hearing on worldwide threats in Washington on March 8, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

A top Senate Democrat has raised concern that U.S. troops could find themselves “in harm’s way” if Congress doesn’t approve an additional $61 billion in support for Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, reiterated calls for the House of Representatives to pass a new tranche of U.S. funding for Ukraine’s war effort during press remarks on Thursday. This time, the Virginia Democrat warned that America’s men and women in uniform could be thrown into a more direct conflict with Russia if the United States doesn’t instead spend more money to bolster Ukraine’s war effort.

“I can’t think of an issue that is of more historic proportions than supporting the Ukrainians at this moment,” Mr. Warner told Bloomberg News on Thursday.

The United States has already provided about $113 billion in Ukraine-related aid since the full-scale conflict began in February 2022. This U.S. funding has since run dry.

This February, the Senate approved a $95 billion supplemental spending bill that includes about $61 billion in new Ukraine-related aid, in addition to several billion more for other global security partnerships and projects. While the bill passed the Senate, it has seen no additional progress in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats have repeatedly demanded House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) advance the bill, as have some Republicans.

Mr. Warner argued that if Ukraine doesn’t get enough support and is eventually defeated, Russian President Vladimir Putin could then set his sights on conquering Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, all of which are formal allies of the United States through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“If Putin wins in Ukraine, [Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland] will be next,” he told Bloomberg News. “And American soldiers could be in harm’s way and in conflict within a couple years. That would be a disaster. And it would be a disaster that would be laid at the feet of this speaker of the House, who hasn’t brought this bill up.”

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty stipulates that an attack on one NATO member would be treated as an attack on all NATO members, for which the various alliance members will assist their attacked ally. This portion of the treaty does not necessarily require alliance members to send their troops into combat.

Is NATO Next?

Mr. Putin has recently denied having plans to move beyond Ukraine to a NATO-allied nation. In a February interview with news media personality Tucker Carlson, Mr. Putin said officials in NATO nations who claim a broader war is coming between Russia and NATO are “trying to intimidate their own population within an imaginary Russian threat.”

Asked by Mr. Carlson if there is any scenario in which he would send Russian forces into Poland, for example, Mr. Putin said such a move would only occur if “Poland attacks Russia.”

“Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest. It’s just threat-mongering,” the Russian president added.

Like Mr. Warner, President Biden has repeatedly raised the prospect of a wider NATO–Russia conflict if Congress doesn’t approve more funding for Ukraine. Mr. Putin called such allegations “complete nonsense” when President Biden made them in December.

During his State of the Union address last week, President Biden again insisted Mr. Putin has territorial ambitions beyond Ukraine.

“If anybody in this room thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine, I assure you, he will not. But Ukraine can stop Putin if we stand with Ukraine and provide the weapons it needs to defend itself,” President Biden said in his annual presidential address last week.

“That is all Ukraine is asking. They are not asking for American soldiers. In fact, there are no American soldiers at war in Ukraine. And I am determined to keep it that way. But now assistance for Ukraine is being blocked by those who want us to walk away from our leadership in the world.”

Alternate Ukraine Funding Plans

Some House Republicans who favor the Ukrainian war effort have been considering alternate ways to send new rounds of support without undermining Mr. Johnson’s leadership.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) has pitched a scaled-down counteroffer to the $95 billion spending supplemental. His bill, cosponsored by eight House Republicans and six House Democrats, comes in at about $66.3 billion, including $47.7 billion in Ukraine-related aid, $10.4 billion to fund Israeli air-defense systems like the Iron Dome missile interceptor and Iron Beam laser interceptor systems, $4.9 billion for Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships, and $2.4 billion to address expenditures from ongoing U.S. military operations in the Red Sea.

Mr. Fitzpatrick’s deal, which he dubbed the “Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act,” also includes provisions reimplementing the “Remain in Mexico” policy for one year, and requiring the secretary of Homeland Security to suspend the entry of inadmissible aliens at U.S. land or maritime borders if he determines such action is necessary to achieve operational control of the border point.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is also working on a Ukraine aid pitch. Details of the deal are not yet clear, but Mr. McCaul indicated the plan would likely take shape after Congress reaches a deal to fund the government. Mr. McCaul’s plan still appears in the works, but details he has provided to CNN this week include formatting new rounds of U.S. taxpayer support for Ukraine as loans. Mr. McCaul indicated his plan also entails provisions for providing Ukraine with assets the U.S. Treasury Department has already frozen.

Mr. Warner shared some doubts about plans to turn frozen Russian assets over to Ukraine.

“Even if we were to pass a law—and the vast majority of these Russian assets are in Europe—it will take years, years of litigation,” the Virginia Democrat said.

Mr. Warner said appropriating frozen Russian assets “can be part of a process” at some point, but “that is not going to relieve the need” he currently feels Ukraine has.

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