NEW YORK: Ending aid to Ukraine would mark a rupture of US leadership and a fracturing of NATO, warned experts including former secretary of state Hillary Clinton who raised the alarm over Donald Trump’s possible reelection.
She was speaking in New York at a gathering to map out Ukraine’s future after two years at war with Russia.
“This is a decisive time not just for Ukraine, but for the West or NATO,” Clinton told the audience Wednesday at Columbia University, where she became a lecturer after losing the 2016 presidential election to Trump.
Clinton’s time as Washington’s chief diplomat from 2009 to 2013 coincided with a marked souring of US-Russia relations.
“How we respond or fail to respond will immeasurably impact the state of the 21st century global order,” she said.
Washington is Kyiv’s main military backer, with over $110 billion already released by Congress — but the world’s leading power has failed for months to vote new funds for Ukraine.
Amid internal bickering between Republican lawmakers, over whom Trump holds sway, and a tug-of-war with President Joe Biden’s Democrats, Congress again postponed a vote on aid to Kyiv and Washington’s leading Middle East ally Israel.
But on Thursday in a surprise, the US Senate voted to move forward with the aid package, as several Republicans joined Democrats in agreeing to open debate.
Even if the bill passes the Senate, it remained unclear whether there is sufficient backing in the Republican-controlled House to get it to Biden’s desk.
Clinton, an advocate of US engagement overseas, said it was “shameful that aid to Ukraine continues to be held up in Congress because of petty politics.”
The former first lady and ex-senator made an impassioned plea that “we can’t let the aggression by Russia and the suffering of Ukrainians go unnoticed and without response.”
To do so would be a “gift to Vladimir Putin and a blow to America’s global leadership in the cause of freedom and democracy.”
Kimberly Marten, a professor of political science at Columbia’s Barnard College, said Putin “believes that Donald Trump is likely to win the upcoming election. And that when that happens, NATO will fall apart.”
The former Republican president and Biden’s likely second-term opponent in November, Trump has been skeptical about Washington’s continued aid to Kyiv, and has even threatened to pull out of the NATO security alliance if returned to the White House.
“If we don’t help them, they will lose (influence) in Washington, they will lose on the battlefield as well,” former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch warned.
“The Russians are counting on a former president Trump victory and that that will be all sorts of things for us and for them — including us pulling out of NATO.”
Yovanovitch cautioned such a scenario would be “a very, very grim picture of us abandoning allies and providing assistance to adversaries, basically.”
Ian Bremmer, of the Eurasia Group think tank and professor of international relations at Columbia, said the situation was more balanced.
“It’s not about us leaving NATO — it’s more about the level of commitment of the United States,” he said.
The knife-edge question of American commitment to the established global security architecture comes against a backdrop of “growing populist movements, Euroskeptic movements,” he said.
Bremmer suggested such factions “will probably have a larger percentage of support after upcoming European Parliamentary elections in countries like France and Germany (and) are going to likely align themselves with Trump.”