The 2022 midterm congressional election in the U.S. will be held on November 8. Why are they so important and how will their results affect Ukraine?
So far, pollsters have offered varying predictions of the results. What Ukraine is primarily concerned with is the possibility of losing long-term military support from the U.S. in the event that the Republican Party wins.
Who is predicted to win the midterm Congressional elections?
During the last two years, the Democratic Party has controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This time, Republicans enter the race for Congress with a small but tangible head start.
A survey held by The New York Times and Siena College showed that if the elections were held today, 45% of likely voters would have supported a Democratic candidate, while 49% would have voted for a Republican candidate.
Such close numbers incite strenuous competition in the political terrain, which may well produce unpredictable results.
The latest Fox News poll, on the contrary, indicates Democrats have the upper hand, being 3% ahead of their Republican rivals.
"Overall, if the election were today, 44% would back the Democratic candidate in their district and 41% the Republican," Fox News reported.
Democrats are trying to safeguard their positions by campaigning for the preservation of the right to abortion and other issues that can help them avoid a debacle in November.
The New York Times analysts point out an additional challenge for Democrats, the increasing public discontent with the President, as 45% of likely voters strongly disapproved of the job that President Biden was doing, and 90% of those voters planned to back a Republican for Congress this fall.
The Trumpist wing mounts an offensive. Why is it dangerous for Ukraine?
Both in summer polls and now, economic issues have been the most important and compelling for voters. Those concerned primarily with the economy and inflation tended to favor Republican candidates.
The European Pravda argues that some of the Republicans, namely the Trumpist wing, often try to blame the troublesome situation in the American economy on spending associated with active foreign policy, which includes Ukraine. Republicans are trying to convince their voters that economic setbacks in the U.S. result from the war in Ukraine.
The Ukrainians find this sentiment concerning. Even though Ukraine has bipartisan congressional support, the Republican caucus guided by the "America First" stance dictated by ex-president Donald Trump raises questions about the future involvement of the U.S. in providing military and other aid to Ukraine.
The Washington Post reported that on October 18, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy claimed that Republicans would be willing to cut off American assistance to Ukraine next year if they win the House majority. He also argued that the U.S. should be less involved in solving problems abroad.
"I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine… It’s not a free blank check," McCarthy said.
However, the following day, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby affirmed that military and financial aid to Ukraine from the U.S. would persist regardless of the results of the midterms.
In May 2022, isolationists already blocked a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine. The first one to speak up against the package was Republican Senator Rand Paul, who was said to be pro-Russian.
talked about the implications the U.S. midterm elections would have on Ukraine with Volodymyr Fesenko, Chairman of the Board of the Penta Center of Applied Political Studies, and Oleksii Haran, professor of political science at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
What will be the results of the 2022 U.S. midterm elections?
The U.S. now has a difficult social and economic situation — like many other countries, it is facing an inflation leap, surging energy prices, and a threat of recession. This has a negative influence on voters’ sentiments and gives an advantage to the opposition party.
However, even if we disregard all this, midterm elections in the U.S. are typically won by the opposition party. Therefore, it’s highly likely that Republicans will take the majority in the House of Representatives.
As for the Senate, experts believe that the parties will stay on roughly equal footing, as only part of the seats are up for election.
Midterm elections in the U.S. are typically won by the opposition party, which is now the Republican Party.
Republicans have a chance to take control of at least one of the two chambers. However, it’s hard to foretell the way it will happen. If Republicans get the majority in either of the chambers, it will naturally mean their weight in American politics will increase. For a bill to be passed, both chambers must vote for it. It’s not the first time the U.S. has encountered such a situation.
On the contrary, the constitutional system of the United States has been designed to preserve the balance between the President and Congress. It is, in fact, an extremely rare situation where one party controls everything: the president’s office and both chambers of Congress, to say nothing of state legislatures and governors. This is more of an exception.
The constitutional system of the United States has been designed to preserve the balance between the President and Congress.
What would Republican control over one of the chambers mean for Ukraine?
Donald Trump has quite a peculiar stance with respect to Ukraine. During his tenure, American weapons started to be delivered to Ukraine. However, he never really understood our country, regarding it as being in Russia’s shadow.
Trump’s policy is very capricious and sketchy. Those in his party who share the same standpoint are the Trumpists. So some Republicans support Ukraine while others say, let’s reduce foreign aid or have more oversight of it. Support for Ukraine, in this case, may be questioned.
We should understand that votes in Congress aren’t always strictly aligned with party lines. There can even be a situation where Democrats support a Republican president or vice versa.
It means that, if Democrats support Biden’s course to aid Ukraine, a significant number of Republicans will also back it up. That’s why I think support for Ukraine will remain.
If Democrats support Biden’s course to aid Ukraine, a significant number of Republicans will also back it up.
Certain risks may arise because there are Republicans, especially Trump’s backers, who stand for paying more attention to domestic problems.
This is a classical isolationist position: "Money should be spent on our own needs," "We have to be less involved in external affairs," and "America first." There was a time before World War II when this standpoint prevailed, and President Roosevelt had to override it (however, the circumstances favored him as Japan attacked and Germany declared war).
Isolationist positions have long existed in the U.S. Now they are actively promoted among Trump’s faction, but there are also Republicans who are vocal supporters of Ukraine. There are also numerous advocates for the U.S. to pursue an active foreign policy aimed at countering and deterring Russia and China.
This is where Republicans are going to have a problem. They don’t have a consolidated position on these issues. Even those who stand for such an isolationist policy aren’t opposed to helping Ukraine. They would rather speak up as an opposition party to make this assistance more reasonable, more transparent, and to imply no "blank checks", as they say.
I believe there will be no critical changes in the U.S. support of Ukraine, but the process may, in some cases, become slower or more complicated when certain decisions will require legislative approval.
There will be no critical changes in the U.S. support of Ukraine, but the process may in some cases become slower or more complicated.
Financial assistance for Ukraine from the U.S. after the 2022 elections
There were several times in U.S. history, both under Obama and under Trump, when debates around the federal budget became so heated that it stuck for several months. This was when the lower house, which was controlled by the opposition party, didn’t adopt a budget prepared by the presidential administration.
In theory, such problems may arise this time too, because a large part of the assistance is implemented through budget allocations. There’s a problem here. There is indeed Lend-Lease, which will be working, but the adoption of specific bills or additional discussions may be slowed.
However, it can also be to the contrary. On some issues, the same republicans may stand for more active support for Ukraine. In particular, it may be the provision of aircraft to Ukraine. At one time, Obama was opposed to giving Ukraine any lethal weapons, which has proved to be an erroneous position.
When reacting to the criticism of his pro-Russian position, he denounced it in practice by giving Ukraine Javelins. So there may be some paradoxical effects here. Some budgetary issues may take more time to be resolved or incite discord between the lower house of Congress and Biden’s administration, which would imply major risks for us. There may also be some legislative initiatives to the benefit of Ukraine.
Therefore, the effect will be ambiguous. Bipartisan support for Ukraine will endure as there’s a consensus regarding it, but the number of representatives sharing isolationist views may increase, implying additional risks for us.
Bipartisan support for Ukraine will endure, but the number of representatives sharing isolationist views may increase, implying additional risks for Kyiv.
What do we have to do to prevent U.S. support for Ukraine from shrinking?
We have to clearly demonstrate that, even in a time of war, Ukraine remains a democratic country, that we proceed with transformations and fight corruption, and that American aid is generally effectively used.
The only thing we shouldn’t interfere in is the U.S. domestic political struggle. This was the case in 2016, when most Ukrainian politicians supported Hillary Clinton, and she eventually lost. After that, Donald Trump tried to involve us in his domestic partisan campaign against Biden, and we narrowly escaped trouble.
Let’s recall the year 2019 when Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected, and Andrii Yermak was tasked with international affairs, for which he absolutely lacked experience. It could have negative results for Ukraine. Back then, we managed to resist and not get involved in that domestic American debate.
I think this is an important and necessary thing to do in the future. It means that while we have bipartisan support for Ukraine, we need to work with both Democrats and Republicans to maintain this support.
Ukraine shouldn’t get involved in the domestic political struggle in the U.S. and take sides.
I believe Congress needs more active and targeted diplomacy from Ukraine, and we’ll have to work more with Republicans and convince them to be our allies since we do have allies and partners there.
We’ll have to increase their number and thus influence the decisions of the Republican caucus in Congress.
Ukraine has to work more with Republicans to increase the number of our allies in the U.S. Congress.