The heads of the State Department and Pentagon on Tuesday warned senators that should lawmakers approve funding for Israel but not Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin will win.
Speaking during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged senators to keep intact the Biden administration’s $106 billion supplemental request for Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific.
Though many lawmakers in both parties support a joint package, House Republicans skeptical of additional Ukraine aid have threatened to sink the plan. And Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is pushing an Israel-only package that would also cut billions in funding for the Internal Revenue Service.
Austin and Blinken warned that without continued U.S. funding for Ukraine, Russian forces would be sure to defeat Kyiv, with wider consequences for the globe.
“It’s hard to put an exact timeline on how long it would take,” Austin said when asked how long until Russia wins should the U.S. fail to provide more aid to Kyiv. “I can guarantee that without our support, Putin will be successful … If we pull the rug out from under [Ukraine] now, Putin will only get stronger.”
Blinken, meanwhile, said “it would do both terrible harm to our values, but also to our core interests” to leave Ukraine out in the cold.
“There is no doubt in my mind that if Putin is allowed to continue to act with impunity, that not only would he not stop at Ukraine and potentially go to a NATO country next … it would send a message to would-be aggressors everywhere in the world, that, ‘If he can get away with it, so can we,’ and then we’re likely to have a world full of conflict,” Blinken said.
“We are much better sustaining our effort now, seeing this to success, than having to pay a much higher price later when we have to deal with a world full of aggression.”
The hearing comes as the Senate and House are headed for a clash over Ukraine aid, with House Republicans looking to vote on a separate $14.3 billion military aid package for Israel.
The amount matches Biden’s request for the country, but it cuts out more than $60 billion for Ukraine under the president’s supplemental. The White House has warned it has less than $5.5 billion left to pull weapons from U.S. stockpiles to send to Ukrainian troops.
The GOP’s proposal to slash dollars for the IRS is also a nonstarter in the Senate.
Johnson has said he expects his chamber’s Israel aid package to go to the floor Thursday. His opposition to pairing Israel and Ukraine aid puts the new Speaker at odds with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
At the Tuesday hearing, multiple lawmakers stressed the importance of passing aid for Israel and Ukraine in a single package, including Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“Make no mistake, we need to address all of these priorities as part of one package because the reality is these issues are all connected and they are all urgent,” Murray said in her opening remarks, noting that “huge supermajorities” in both chambers support continued Ukraine aid.
“Getting this funding across the finish line should not be controversial,” she said.
Murray added that both China and Russia were “watching closely” how the U.S. would respond to the two conflicts.
Collins, meanwhile, stressed that there would be “dire consequences that will jeopardize our national security” should the two spending efforts not be passed together.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) also pressed to support both countries, arguing that “if you look at history, you understand that tyrants, like Putin, don’t stop. They have to be stopped.”
In his testimony, Blinken sought to link the Ukraine-Russia war and the Hamas-Israel conflict in arguing for the full supplemental. Russia is reportedly seeking more military assistance from Iran, including drones, and in return giving Tehran advanced military technology.
“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,” Blinken said.
He also made the case for Taiwan aid to be included in the package, arguing that “what happens in Ukraine, what happens in the Middle East, also matters to the Indo-Pacific.”
Austin offered a starker assessment for failing to link the funding.
“If Putin is successful, he will not stop at Ukraine,” Austin said. “There’s no question in my mind that sooner or later, he will challenge NATO and we’ll find ourselves in a shooting war.”