Russia’s hopes of a Republican landslide to hurt Ukraine are fading fast

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (center) meet soldiers during a visit to a military training center in the Western Military District for mobilized reservists, outside the city of Ryazan, October 20, 2022.

Mikhail Klimentiev | AFP | Getty Images

As the results of the midterm elections in the United States arrive and indicate a much tighter race than expected between Republicans and Democrats as they vie for control of Congress, the vote is closely watched in Ukraine and in Russia, both assessing the impact of the election. war and geopolitics.

Although he hasn’t commented publicly, Moscow is seen as favoring a Republican midterm victory in hopes that a significant power shift could lead to a shift in US foreign policy toward the US. Ukraine – and could deepen rumblings of discontent among Republicans. on the massive financial support that the United States gives to Kyiv to fight Russia.

Nine months into the ongoing conflict and the Biden administration has now committed more than $18.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, according to the latest Defense Department figures.

However, there are signs that bipartisan support for such immense and continued aid may be waning, with prominent Republicans beginning to question how long US largesse can continue, especially in the face of inflation. , potential recession and increased cost of living.

On the one hand, prominent Republican Kevin McCarthy said in an October interview that there would be no “blank check” for Ukraine if Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives mid- mandate.

Change of power… and support from Ukraine?

Russia may well be hoping that a change of power after the midterm elections could herald a colder attitude towards Ukraine. But analysts say Moscow could be disappointed unless former leader Donald Trump can return to power, after signaling he could announce a plan next week to run for president again in 2024.

“There is no significant downward pressure on U.S. military support for Ukraine through the end of 2023,” Ian Bremmer, founder and chief of consultancy Eurasia Group, said in comments by email this week.

“Furthermore, most Republicans remain staunchly committed to supporting Ukraine, despite House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s announcement of ‘no blank check’ for Ukrainians under a led House. The position of the GOP Congress, at least in the short term, will be ‘The United States is giving military aid, the Europeans are giving financial aid,’ which changes little on the ground,” he said. he adds.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens as then-US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, in 2019.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

The bigger question comes from Trump announcing his presidential run, Bremmer said, adding that he expected such an announcement imminently.

This, he added, will likely be accompanied by Biden’s blaming the war with populist opposition to the billions of taxpayer dollars being spent on Ukraine, a stance that “will gain momentum with MAGA supporters.” in Congress and undermine longer-term U.S. alignment with NATO allies, he noted.

The United States has sought to calm nerves in Kyiv over a change in Washington’s attitude toward the country with Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, making clear “that the United States’ commitment United for Ukraine is unwavering” when she met with Ukraine’s president on Tuesday.

Moscow’s Bad Reputation

Moscow has earned a dubious reputation when it comes to American democratic processes, known for interfering in the 2016 election and suspected of continuing to sow political and domestic discord.

Russia has done little to dispel doubts about its involvement in a range of nefarious activities in recent years, ranging from alleged cyberattacks to disinformation campaigns aimed at influencing US voters and elections.

Putin’s close confidant Yevgeny Prigozhin, an increasingly powerful oligarch who heads a state-backed private military group fighting in Ukraine known as the Wagner Group – as well as several companies implicated in US election interference of 2016 – openly alluded to interference in the US midterm elections this week.

“We interfered [in U.S. elections], we are interfering and we will continue to interfere. Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do,” Prigozhin said in comments posted by the press service of his catering company Concord on the Russian equivalent of Facebook, VKontakte.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and close ally of Vladimir Putin. He recently admitted to establishing the Wagner Group, a private military company fighting in Ukraine, in 2014.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that the Biden administration was not surprised by Prigozhin’s admission, telling a briefing that “his bold confession, if there is a, only seem to be a manifestation of the impunity enjoyed by crooks and cronies under President Putin and the Kremlin.”

Prigozhin did not say whether the election interference was aimed at propelling Republican candidates to power, but Russia was found to have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign while bolstering that of Trump, under whose presidency relations between the United States and Russia have thawed.

For its part, the Kremlin said Wednesday that the midterm elections would not improve “poor” relations between Moscow and Washington and dismissed allegations that Russia was meddling in the vote.

“These elections cannot change anything essential. Relations are still and will remain bad,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters.

Bipartite support cabinet, for now

Analysts tend to agree that what we could potentially see is a reduction in financial support, but by no means a complete withdrawal of aid – for now at least.

“We consider it highly unlikely but not entirely impossible that the new US Congress could reduce US military and financial support for Ukraine over time,” Berenberg Bank’s chief economist said Wednesday. Holger Schmieding in a note.

“If so, it could impact the situation on the battlefield, prolong the war, harm Ukraine’s ability to meet the costs of the war, and trigger a new wave of refugees into the country. ‘EU.’

For now, however, time—and the American political establishment—seems to be on Ukraine’s side.

“So far, a strong bipartisan consensus has underpinned US support for Ukraine,” Schmieding noted, adding that despite some recent grumbling from the fringes of both US political parties, Berenberg Bank expects that consensus holds, “at least as long as no Trump-like ‘America First’ populist occupies the White House.”

“The potential signal that an American shift could send to China regarding American commitment to defending a beleaguered democracy (Ukraine – or Taiwan?) from aggression should be a strong argument for staying the course. Yet, we have to monitor tail risk,” he said.

Timothy Ash, senior sovereign emerging markets strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said it was in the United States’ interest to continue supporting Ukraine, given that it is eroding Putin’s regime.

“The war in Ukraine must provide the United States with the best chance to change the regime in Russia, to eliminate Putin. He is weakened militarily, economically, diplomatically. And yes, the United States would absolutely like to see Putin removed from power – the calculation will be the next Russian leader cannot be as bad as Putin.”

Europe is watching

Analysts noted that the military situation on the ground in Ukraine may well determine how much and for how long US support for Ukraine will continue as Kyiv struggles to show its allies it can win the war. and will win it, as long as Western military aid continues to flow to it.

“Judging by conversations with military experts, time is currently on the side of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Schmieding noted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his news conference at the Rus Sanatorium, October 31, 2022, in Sochi, Russia.

Contributor | Getty Images

“A steady supply of advanced Western weapons and Ukraine’s will to resist will likely shape the situation on the ground more than Russia’s forced mobilization of ever more – often unmotivated – manpower. However, this does not only so long as the western world stands squarely behind Ukraine.”

He noted that in the unlikely event that the United States reduces its support for Ukraine, the impact on Europe could be significant, with the region forced to do more for Kyiv, while finding it almost impossible “to compensate entirely a reduced flow of American weapons”. (and money) to Ukraine.”

That could encourage President Vladimir Putin to hold on longer, waiting for Western support for Ukraine to crumble further, he noted. “In turn, anything that prolongs the war and its impact on energy and food prices could hamper Europe’s recovery from the looming winter recession,” he warned.

“Russia poses the only significant military threat to Europe for the foreseeable future. By degrading the Russian military machine, Ukraine is currently making Europe safer month by month. But if the war ends in a way that Putin can count as at least a partial success, Europe would have to spend far more than otherwise to guard against Russian aggression in the future.”

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