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House Republicans float loan program for Ukraine – NBC

The GOP’s latest proposal is designed to appease hardline conservatives who oppose additional funding for Kiev

US Republican lawmakers are drafting a bill that would dole out some non-military aid to Ukraine as a loan, rather than a gift, NBC News reported on Friday. While the GOP views the plan as a compromise between the party’s pro- and anti-Kiev factions, Democrats insist that their no-strings-attached $60 billion aid bill is “the only way forward.”

The US Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid bill last month, which would see Ukraine receive $60 billion in mostly military aid. With Kiev’s stocks of Western arms and ammunition dwindling, US President Joe Biden has claimed that Ukraine will lose more territory to Russia if the bill is not approved by the House of Representatives.

The Republican-controlled House has thus far refused to hold a vote on the bill, with GOP lawmakers demanding that it be bundled with a dramatic tightening of US immigration law and increased funding for border security. 

Amid the deadlock, House Speaker Mike Johnson and the chairmen of multiple committees dealing with national security are working on their own bill that would treat some aid to Kiev as a long-term loan, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul told NBC.

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“The plans are in their preliminary stages and far from fully formed,” NBC noted. However, the network’s sources said that the GOP aims to have a bill ready for a vote before the end of March.

McCaul and Senator Lindsey Graham both stressed that only the non-military portion of the aid would be treated as a loan, and neither revealed how much military versus non-military aid would be doled out under the draft legislation. Out of the $60 billion set out in the bill passed by the Senate last month, less than $10 billion would be spent on non-military support for Kiev.

Both Graham and former President Donald Trump have endorsed the idea of loaning money to Kiev, although some conservative pundits have trashed the proposal. “Ukraine will never repay the debt, and we’ll never make them,” journalist Tucker Carlson stated last month. “This is just a more dishonest way to send more unaccounted for weapons to the region, delay the inevitable peace deal and kill more forcibly-conscripted Ukrainians.”

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McCaul told NBC that the US could use seized Russian assets as collateral for any potential loan. However, the US is currently only able to use certain assets to aid Ukraine indirectly, and McCaul’s plan would require passing additional legislation, something that Republicans are not all willing to do, according to NBC.

Democrats have greeted the plan with skepticism. “Aid is better than no aid, but this is not an ideal way of doing it,” an anonymous US official told NBC. “Asking a country to take on tens of millions of dollars of debt that they can’t afford to pay off is a recipe for a significant burden.” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told the network that the Senate’s $95 billion bill remains “the only way forward.”

Russia has repeatedly warned the US and its allies that no amount of money or weapons will prevent it from achieving its goals in Ukraine. The influx of Western military hardware will only prolong the fighting and increase the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO, the Kremlin has cautioned. 

 

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