“I feel bad for the Ukrainian people, and for innocent Russians, too, for that matter,” said Jamie Moorman, an independent voter from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. “But my opinion is shifting. I was in favor of the U.S. providing funding to Ukraine at the start of the war, but at this point, haven’t we done enough?”
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a new $3 billion military assistance package to support Ukraine in its war to repel Russia’s invasion. As the anniversary of the start of the conflict nears, some Americans are growing skittish about what they see as a blank check to fund a never-ending war on foreign soil.
According to a report published in December by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German research institute, the United States sent nearly $50 billion in military, humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine in 2022. As that number continues to climb, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the U.S. Congress in December to appeal directly to lawmakers and the American people for additional assistance.
“It made me angry, to be honest,” Moorman told Voice of America. “It’s good for us to back Ukraine against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to some degree, but Zelenskyy has become shamelessly greedy. He’s demanding more and more money for a war we have no obligation to.”
Despite some voters’ growing doubt, polls indicate the majority of Americans still back sending some level of aid to Ukraine. In a YouGov/CBS News survey from earlier this month, 64% of respondents said they wanted their representatives to support U.S. aid to Ukraine.
“I feel proud that we are helping them to the extent we are,” James Delawyer, a Democratic voter from Hudson, Wisconsin, told VOA.
“I’m actually more in favor of funding Ukraine’s efforts than I was at the beginning,” he continued. “This is a struggle to preserve the Western world order that’s existed since the end of World War II, and it would be a major blow to democracy and to the autonomy of nations if we let Ukraine fall.”
Delawyer said he can see that enthusiasm for continued funding for Ukraine’s defense is waning among some Americans. He is hopeful the Biden administration will give as much as possible before criticism reaches a tipping point and aid is possibly slowed or halted.
Jordan Cohen, a policy analyst at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, said there are indicators the country is moving in that direction.
“We can see members of the Republican Party in the House [of Representatives] are beginning to signal they do not want to continue with unrestricted aid,” Cohen explained. “Americans that support those politicians and that watch conservative news stations are in turn adopting those talking points.”
In fact, a series of YouGov/CBS News polls found evidence of a growing partisan divide on the issue of U.S. backing for Kyiv. In March, at the beginning of the war, the percentage of Republicans who wanted their representatives to provide military and other support to Ukraine was nearly as high as it was among Democrats (75% for Republicans to 80% for Democrats).
By last month however, the polling outfit found the gap had widened significantly. Eighty-one percent of Democrats now wanted their representatives to provide assistance for Ukraine’s defense, compared with 52% of Republicans.
“What is the end goal here?” asked Chad Daniels, a Republican voter from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “There’s no oversight for the money we’re giving, and we conservatives know Ukraine is a corrupt country.”
“Should we just piss away $120 billion at a time to Ukraine forever?” he continued. “If we can define what the end goal is, maybe I’d reconsider. But now it just seems like a blank check I can’t support.”
Many still support funding
When Zelenskyy addressed the U.S. Congress in December, he expressed gratitude for the help Americans have provided thus far. At the same time, however, he stressed that the aid the U.S. has sent to his country shouldn’t be viewed as a handout.
“Your money is not charity,” he said. “It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”
That message has resonated for many Americans, particularly among Democratic voters.
“It’s important that Putin sees Ukraine has global support behind them,” said Michele Harrison, a retired business owner living in Portland, Oregon. “I don’t know how people can say this is a waste of money. We’re talking about a sovereign nation and a democracy under threat. We see how hard they’re fighting this evil invasion, and it’s our responsibility to back them — we’d hope for the same if we were invaded.”
Even among many who bristle at the growing price tag of America’s backing of a foreign war, there is an understanding that U.S. involvement has global implications.
“The issue isn’t sending money,” Garrick Willis, a sales manager from Fairfax, Virginia, told VOA. “The issue is the amount of money, and the frequency we’re being asked to send it. We’re giving all of this money to Ukraine, but we have our own issues that need attention at home. We’re making ourselves vulnerable.”
Many who feel the U.S. is spending too much in Ukraine point to domestic causes that could be funded instead.
But some in favor of continuing to fund Ukraine’s defense at current levels feel this is a dubious argument.
“I mean, I can understand people feeling like they’d want that money spent at home,” said Daq Bazzini, a musician and Democratic voter from Santa Monica, California, “but most of the people saying that now are Republicans. Where were they when [former President George W.] Bush raised hell in Iraq and Afghanistan for eight years?”
Dillard University public policy professor Robert Collins said that remembering Americans’ attitudes toward the Afghanistan War can be instructive in understanding shifting opinions regarding the war in Ukraine.
“War fatigue always sets in,” he told VOA. “At the beginning of our war in Afghanistan, for example, sending troops over there to fight was popular. But that didn’t last. Eventually, we didn’t see the point anymore and we wanted our people home.”
“I think we’ll see a similar pattern with our appetite to fund the war in Ukraine,” he added. “Even many of the people who currently support us sending money over there will eventually get tired of it.”
A December poll from Morning Consult found that 41% of American voters were “very concerned” about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That’s down from 58% last March at the beginning of the war.
“Personally, I’m more concerned about solving the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine than in giving them more weapons,” said David Brown, a retired information technology specialist in Seal Beach, California.
“Let’s keep giving money to provide food, shelter and gainful employment to refugees and those in need,” he continued, “but Ukraine doesn’t seem interested in a cease-fire right now and unless we stop sending them weapons and money for security, I don’t think they ever will be. This war will go on forever.”