NATIONAL NEWS

US commitment to Ukraine a central question as Biden meets with EU heads during congressional chaos

Oct 19, 2023, 9:54 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Saddled with a dysfunctional Congress, President Joe Biden welcomed European Union leaders to the White House on Friday with the promise that the United States can nonetheless deliver tens of billions of dollars worth of aid to wartime Ukraine and Israel.

Biden greeted European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen by noting their unity.

“We stood together to support the great people of Ukraine, and we stood together to tackle economic challenges,” Biden said, and now the leaders would come together to back Israel following the Hamas attack and establish standards in trade with China.

The Cabinet Room sit-down came at a moment when domestic U.S. political chaos could further destabilize an increasingly chaotic world. Many of Biden’s shared priorities with the EU depend on getting a budget through Congress — a tough task given that the House lacks an elected speaker and differences with some Republican lawmakers over aid for Ukraine could force a federal government shutdown in November.

Along with addressing Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia and the fallout from Hamas’ attack on Israel, the U.S. and EU leaders are also figuring out how to manage climate change, economic competition with China and trade and tax issues.

One day ahead of his meeting with Biden, European Council President Michel expressed optimism that the U.S. president can deliver on his promises to help arm and financially support Ukraine.

“I’m really confident and also I’m grateful for Joe Biden’s personal leadership,” Michel said. “He will do everything to ensure this support will be confirmed.”

The U.S. president has cultivated a personal relationship with Michel and von der Leyen, who calls Biden “dear Joe.”

Both the EU and U.S. pride themselves for being devoted to democratic principles, a source of unity as they navigate Russia’s war in Ukraine and the war between Israel and Hamas. They have framed their support for Israel as a reflection of shared democratic values and stressed the importance of following international law in military operations.

But the reality of democracies is that foreign policy agreements can change with elections and competing interests at home can overshadow diplomacy. The two partners still have differences to reconcile on trade, economic matters and the incentives for shifting to renewable energy sources. The U.S. and EU still need to finalize an agreement on environmentally sustainable steel and aluminum production in order to avoid the tariffs imposed during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Biden’s own incentives on moving away from fossil fuels have left Europe “a little bit uncomfortable,” said Federico Steinberg, a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

While the EU welcomes U.S. efforts to “accelerate the green transition,” Steinberg said, some elements of Biden’s programs are protectionist in nature, discriminate against trade partners and undermine the World Trade Organization system that the EU would like to revive.

But for now, the U.S. and E.U. are focused on the big challenges of war and solidarity in their words and policy choices. The roughly 90-minute meeting was primarily focused on Israel and Ukraine, with leaders also focused on making progress on an agreement on steel and aluminum tariffs that would focus on taxing metal made through processes that generated high carbon emissions, according to two senior administration officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss the private exchanges.

“The winds are not just blowing today — today they are gale force,” von der Leyen said in remarks at the conservative Hudson Institute. “Our democracies are under sustained and systemic attack by those who abhor freedom.”

In addition to sanctioning Russia, EU countries have provided close to $90 billion in assistance to Ukraine, including $27 billion in military aid, von der Leyen said. But there are open questions as to whether the U.S. commitment could waver after having provided four rounds of aid to Ukraine that total $113 billion, a sum that includes replacing U.S. military equipment sent to Kyiv.

“Now is the time to double down,” von der Leyen said Thursday.

Biden asked for $105 billion in additional funding Friday, including $60 billion for Ukraine, much of which would replenish U.S. weapons stockpiles provided earlier.

There’s also $14 billion for Israel, $10 billion for unspecified humanitarian efforts, $14 billion for managing the U.S.-Mexico border and fighting fentanyl trafficking and $7 billion for the Indo-Pacific region, which includes Taiwan.

But some House Republicans have questioned the value of aid to Ukraine at the levels sought by Biden. The GOP ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., after a deal to temporarily keep the government open through November 17. Republican lawmakers have failed to find a successor, leading to concerns that Biden’s commitments with the EU could be in jeopardy.

The U.S. president offered his challenge to Congress in a Thursday evening speech by outlining the core idea behind his spending proposal:

“American values are what make us a partner that nations want to work with. We put all that at risk if we walk away from Ukraine, if we turn our backs on Israel.”

___

AP writer Raf Casert contributed to this report from Brussels.

National News

Associated Press

Minnesota state senator arrested on suspicion of burglary

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A state senator and former broadcast meteorologist was arrested on suspicion of burglary early Monday in the northwestern Minnesota city of Detroit Lakes, police said. Democratic Sen. Nicole Mitchell, 49, of Woodbury, was being held in the Becker County Jail on suspicion of first-degree burglary. Formal charges were still pending Monday afternoon, […]

18 minutes ago

Associated Press

William Strickland, a longtime civil rights activist, scholar and friend of Malcom X, has died

BOSTON (AP) — William Strickland, a longtime civil rights activist and supporter of the Black Power movement who worked with Malcom X and other prominent leaders in the 1960s, has died. He was 87. Strickland, whose death April 10 was confirmed by a relative, first became active in civil rights as a high schooler in […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Insider Q&A: Trust and safety exec talks about AI and content moderation

Alex Popken was a longtime trust and safety executive at Twitter focusing on content moderation before leaving in 2023. She was the first employee there dedicated to moderating Twitter’s advertising business when she started in 2013. Now, she’s vice president of trust and safety at WebPurify, a content moderation service provider that works with businesses […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawsuit alleges negligence in hiring of maintenance man accused of torturing resident

BALTIMORE (AP) — April Hurley’s attacker entered her apartment after identifying himself as the building maintenance man — a job he should never have obtained, according to a lawsuit filed Monday that accuses the property owner and management company of engaging in negligent hiring practices. Once inside the apartment, Jason Billingsley tortured Hurley and her […]

4 hours ago

Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at...

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Eric Tucker and Jake Offenhartz, The Associated Press

Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

Trump tried to illegally influence the 2016 election by preventing damaging stories about himself from becoming public, a prosecutor said.

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Biden will send Ukraine air defense weapons, artillery once Senate approves, Zelenskyy says

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday the U.S. will send badly needed air defense weaponry once the Senate approves a massive national security aid package that includes $61 billion for Ukraine. Zelensky said in a posting on X that Biden also assured him that a coming package of […]

5 hours ago

US commitment to Ukraine a central question as Biden meets with EU heads during congressional chaos