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Lawmakers from both parties promise to take up Ukraine funding in the coming days


The last-minute deal in Congress that prevented a government shutdown also halted new U.S. aid in support of Ukraine's fight against Russia. One of the lawmakers who voted yes on the stopgap spending bill was Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He joins us now by phone. Senator, what do you see as the immediate impact of putting a pause on USA to Ukraine?

CHRIS MURPHY: Well, perhaps the most immediate impact is that it signals both to Ukraine, but also to Europe that there is no longer certainty that the United States is going to authorize funding necessary to keep Ukraine in this war. You know, overall, the United States has spent about $70 billion to support Ukraine, but our European and global partners have actually spent more about 80 to $90 billion. And we need them to stay in this fight. But they're only going to continue that supply line if they know the United States is committed as well.

So I think everyone is scratching their heads right now waiting for Congress to make this decision in the next 45 days as to whether we're going to continue to support Ukraine. I hope and expect we will make that decision. But it may cause some confusion and perhaps blunt some momentum in Europe and across the world as they continue their work to authorize weapons to Ukraine, humanitarian support for Ukraine. And that has real consequences.

MARTÍNEZ: Are you worried that this somehow emboldens Russia?

MURPHY: I think Putin has already made the decision that he can outlast Ukraine and the West. I think, certainly, Putin at this point has decided that he's going to wait and that he's going to keep this war going until after the 2024 election. And the reason for that is that he sees the Republican Party beginning to consolidate around a position that would abandon Ukraine. And he figures that if he just holds out until that election, he has a chance for the Republicans to win control of the White House and Congress, walk away from Ukraine, and then the Russian army marches on Kyiv. So I don't think the Republican Party has made that decision.

And our job now is to try to support those in the Republican Party that still support Ukraine and ultimately show Russia and the world with a bipartisan vote in the next 30 to 45 days that we still have a consensus position in the United States to make sure that the post-World War II order remains, which is really what we're fighting for here. This isn't just about Ukraine. This is about sending messages to countries like China that if they invade Taiwan, there will be consequences for that as well. But the lid comes off of that post-World War II order if we abandon Ukraine in the next year or two.

MARTÍNEZ: So on that, Senator, because say there's someone in the U.S. struggling to make ends meet and they ask you why is it worth to send it - more money to Ukraine, what's your answer to them?

MURPHY: Well, first, we have benefited from a global order in which big countries don't invade small countries. The relative stability that we have seen, especially in Europe, which is our main trading partner, has grown jobs in the United States. The United States remains 25% of global GDP, in part because of that stability. And if you start to see massive, big state conflicts all around the world, that hurts the United States' ability to export. But second, Putin won't stop if he wins control of Ukraine. He will move next, I believe, on a NATO country, countries that we have treaty obligations with. And so that would mean the United States will be directly at war with Russia. That will mean that U.S. troops will be in Europe fighting and dying.

And so, you know, I don't think that the domino theory applies in every case of international conflict. But in this case, I think Putin is enough of a madman that ultimately the United States gets dragged into war. And this is a very affordable investment. Ukraine is not asking for U.S. troops to fight and die for them. They are asking for funding that amounts to a sliver of our overall national security budget. It's a wise, preventative investment.

MARTÍNEZ: But President Biden has said that as long as Russia is invading Ukraine, that funding from the U.S. will continue, as long as he's president. Is there any merit, though, from Republicans when they argue that current levels of funding are simply unsustainable or that they just can't go on endlessly?

MURPHY: Well, first of all, what's interesting is that that's a position held by the minority of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. So Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House, has said over and over on the record that he supports funding for Ukraine. They had a vote in the House of Representatives last week that showed that there is less than half of the Republican caucus that opposes funding. So if you took a vote today in the House and the Senate, 75% of both bodies would support funding. But as to the question of sustainability, if we show that we are behind Ukraine and not backing down, I think that does have the ability ultimately to bring Putin to the negotiating table, get a political settlement. This is not an investment that we're going to need to make for the next 10 to 20 years like Afghanistan. This is something that I think can have a political settlement.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator, thanks.

MURPHY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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