Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the current wrangling in Congress over funding Ukraine as it continues to fight a war against Moscow is working in the interest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I think Putin is not only thrilled by the divide over whether we continue, and at what levels, to fund Ukraine. I think he is fomenting it as well,” Clinton told PBS Newshour in an interview broadcast Tuesday.
While Clinton recognized that most lawmakers still favor continued U.S. support for the war-torn country, she also noted the “partisan political divide” over the issue.
“Honestly, I don’t understand any American siding with Putin, but we have seen it, and we have heard it, and we have to fight against it,” Clinton added.
In August, President Joe Biden asked Congress for an additional $24 billion for Ukraine.
However, the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as speaker on Tuesday and the unknown element of who could replace him has added to uncertainty about whether and when that funding will ultimately reach Kyiv.
McCarthy passed a deal with the support of Democrats to keep the government open over the weekend, which, however, excluded aid for Ukraine, a point of contention for many right-wing GOP members.
Biden on Sunday said he expected McCarthy to follow through on his “commitment for the secure passage and support needed to help Ukraine.” This infuriated Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla), who accused the California Republican of cutting a “side deal” with the president to allow a vote on more military assistance for Ukraine and later introduced a resolution to force a no-confidence vote on McCarthy.
Despite denying the existence of such a deal, McCarthy was voted out Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Biden held a call with U.S. allies, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to reiterate that the U.S. remains committed to helping Ukraine defeat Russia.
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, on Tuesday, echoed Clinton’s warnings about the Russian president, telling reporters at the White House that even just a delay in the transfer of support to Ukraine will be interpreted by Putin as a sign that he can “wait us out.”
Kirby added, “A strong signal of support now and into next year will make it clear to Putin that he’s wrong about that too, just like his assumptions have been wrong throughout this entire conflict.”
Ahead of McCarthy’s removal, Kirby also expressed confidence that Congress would, in the end, approve the Ukraine package, saying a majority of Republicans support it.
“There’s a small number of very vocal ― a small minority of vocal members who are pushing back on that, but they don’t represent their party,” Kirby said. “They don’t represent their leadership.”