Stalled U.S. funding for Ukraine affecting fight against Russia, says NATO head

Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg (L) said Thursday that stalled U.S. funding for Ukraine is impacting the battlefield. File Photo by Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI
1 of 3 | Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg (L) said Thursday that stalled U.S. funding for Ukraine is impacting the battlefield. File Photo by Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Congress' inability to pass legislation on new weapons shipments for Ukraine is being felt on the battlefield, the head of NATO said, as the Biden administration warned that without more U.S. supplies, Russia will capture a strategic city in eastern Ukraine.

"The fact that the U.S. has not been able to make a decision so far has already had consequences," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday during a press conference in Brussels where defense ministers of NATO members were assembled for meetings.


The NATO head added that despite the stalemate, he expects the Americans will make a decision soon.

The Biden administration has for months called on Congress to pass legislation to fund arms for Ukraine, but the bill has been held up by Republican opposition over its lack of funding and support for border security.


Then last week, following months of negotiations, the U.S. Senate finally passed a bill that included $60 billion for Ukraine. However, it is expected to meet staunch opposition in the Republican-led House where House Speaker Mike Johnson said Wednesday that the GOP will not be "forced into passing a foreign aid bill" that "does nothing to secure our own border."

Stoltenberg said Thursday that he expects Congress to agree on a package soon because a majority of the lawmakers support Ukraine in the war against Russia. He added that he met with Johnson last month and pointed to the joint statement they made vowing that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not win the war against Ukraine.

"And, of course, that requires support from all NATO allies," he said, adding that if Putin wins it will be a problem for everyone.

"It will be a message to authoritarian leaders -- not only Putin but also President Xi [Jinping of China] -- that when they use military force, they get what they want. What happens in Ukraine today can happen in Taiwan tomorrow."

He said that to "some extent" increased support from allies can compensate for the lack of support from the United States, which has been Ukraine's largest backer in the nearly two-year-old war, but "it's vital that they continue to provide support and therefore I continue to expect that they will be able to make a decision hopefully as soon as possible."


Meanwhile in Washington, White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby warned that without more U.S.-funded ammunition the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka in eastern Donetsk Oblast, which Putin has illegally declared annexed, would come under the Kremlin's occupation.

"This is happening because the Ukrainian forces on the ground are running out of artillery ammunition. Russia is sending wave after wave of conscripted forces to attack Ukrainian positions," he told reporters during a press conference.

"And because Congress has yet to pass the supplemental bill, we have not been able to provide Ukraine with the artillery shells that they desperately need to disrupt these Russian assaults."

Avdiivka is on the frontlines of the war, and the 3rd Assault Brigade fighting there described the situation in a statement on Telegram as "hell."

The brigade had been redeployed to strengthen troops in the Avdiivka region, where it says they have been surrounded by seven Russian brigades. The situation in the city is "extremely critical," it said.

"Our fighters demonstrate unprecedented heroism. We are forced to fight at 360 degrees against new and new brigades that the enemy is bringing in," 3rd Assault Brigade Commander Andriy Biletskyi said in a statement.


President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told the public in his nightly address on Thursday that "we are doing everything we can" to ensure troops in Avdiivaka and elsewhere in the eastern front "have enough managerial and technological capabilities to save as many Ukrainian lives as possible."

Kirby said the cost of Congress' inaction is "stark" and that it needs to pass the supplemental funding bill without delay.

"If House Republicans do not act soon, what is happening in Avdiivka right now could very well happen elsewhere along that front," he said.

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