Ukraine’s unyielding resistance to Vladimir Putin’s autocratic aggression has improved the country’s reputation on the international stage and led to a powerful alliance between Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, the greatest test of this partnership has yet to come. There is no end in sight to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and Ukraine’s military is highly dependent on U.S. aid. Although the Biden administration has supported Ukraine rhetorically and politically, it is not surprising that Ukrainian leaders may worry that American politicians will not support a foreign war indefinitely. This strategic partnership is currently at a high point after decades of ups and downs, but future military aid could be jeopardized by a lack of support on Capitol Hill. Therefore, Kyiv faces external pressure to achieve sustained military success, as they must prove to Washington that military support is a worthwhile investment.
Unfortunately, Western countries have historically become disinterested in assisting Ukraine when Kyiv fails to meet its objectives. Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, a revolt in protest of fraudulent electoral results, was seen by Western nations as a potential inflection point after which Ukraine could democratize. However, Kyiv’s failure to reform in the years following the Orange Revolution created a sense of “Ukraine fatigue” within Washington, as legislators grew tired of providing aid that was perceived as unhelpful. The concept of “Ukraine fatigue” is fundamental to the current U.S.-Ukraine dynamic, as history indicates that America treats aid to Ukraine as an investment that must yield results.
Currently, domestic political support for assistance to Ukraine remains high, but questions regarding Ukraine fatigue have lingered. Military support requires congressional approval, and some Republicans believe that the United States should not spend taxpayer dollars on a foreign war. Members of the Trump-affiliated MAGA wing of the Republican party — led by firebrand Rep. Matt Gaetz — fittingly introduced a “Ukraine Fatigue” resolution to halt all aid to Kyiv. Recent political developments in Washington have delivered mixed results from a Ukrainian perspective. Far-right Trump allies had limited electoral success in the 2022 midterms, but Republicans recaptured control of the House of Representatives, and MAGA-aligned representatives currently exercise disproportionate power in the GOP’s slim majority. Although Biden and the governing Democratic Party have remained steadfast in their support of Ukraine, a vocal Republican minority could jeopardize the future of the Kyiv-Washington strategic partnership.
The Russian invasion poses an existential threat to both Ukrainian sovereignty and the health of global democracy. Although opponents of American aid contend that the war does not affect the United States directly, failure to support Kyiv would undermine Washington’s commitment to defending democracy and embolden supporters of autocracy worldwide. Fortunately, both Biden and Zelenskyy have recently made public steps to strengthen their mutual strategic partnership. Zelenskyy met with U.S. representatives in Washington to publicly — and successfully — lobby for additional aid, and Biden visited Kyiv in daring fashion to reiterate support for Ukraine. Although the grinding nature of the war may play into the narrative of Ukraine fatigue, there is reason to believe that upholding global democracy is a sufficiently strong incentive for Washington to maintain its strategic partnership with Kyiv alive.