Biden and Germany’s Scholz Meet at White House and Push for Ukraine Aid

President Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany used a meeting at the Oval Office on Friday to pressure Congress to pass billions more in aid for Ukraine, as legislative dysfunction and opposition among some Republicans have left the critical package in limbo.

“Hopefully Congress, the House, will follow you and make a decision on giving the necessary support because without the support of the United States and without the support of European states, Ukraine will not have a chance to defend its own country,” Mr. Scholz said in opening remarks before their meeting.

Mr. Biden had a more blunt assessment of the congressional gridlock.

“The failure of the United States Congress, if it occurs, not to support Ukraine is close to criminal neglect,” Mr. Biden said. “It is outrageous.”

The joint pressure amounted to another maneuver in the high-stakes battle over funding for Ukraine as it tries to fight off Russia’s invasion, a debate that could ultimately help determine the course of the war and, much of Europe worries, security across the continent.

The message comes after Senate Republicans blocked a broad bipartisan deal this week that would have provided billions in funding for Ukraine and Israel, as well as stringent restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border. Senators are now inching ahead with legislation would provide $60.1 billion for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in global conflicts.

Senators were planning to work into the weekend on the bill, and it appeared to be on track for passage in the Senate within days. But it faces stiff opposition from many Republicans in the G.O.P.-led House.

The White House has argued that the aid is necessary for Ukraine to continue to defend itself.

Ukraine would not immediately lose the war without the U.S. aid, according to analysts, but it would most likely lose out on stockpiles of weapons and ammunition it has relied on. The United States has provided about half of the foreign military assistance to Ukraine so far, roughly $47 billion.

“That is why we are both firmly convinced that this must happen now, but also confident that the American Congress will ultimately” pass the funding, Mr. Scholz told reporters at the White House after the meeting with Mr. Biden. “That is also the right message to the Russian president, that his hope is in vain that he simply has to wait long enough” for Ukraine’s allies to lose enthusiasm for continuing to support it.

The European Union passed about $54 billion in aid earlier this month that will cover pensions, payments to people displaced by war and routine outlays such as salaries for teachers and doctors in Ukraine.

After initially expressing skepticism about evidence the United States and Britain presented in early 2022 that Russia was preparing to invade, Germany has emerged as one of the largest financial contributors to Ukraine’s war effort, and to its nascent rebuilding effort. The nation has cut off gas supplies from Moscow and imposed sanctions.

But the political cost for Mr. Scholz has been high. Germany has long been accustomed to being the economic engine of Europe, but last year its economy shrank 0.3 percent, and roughly the same performance is expected in 2024. The cost of the Ukraine war and China’s economic problems — which have hit the auto and manufacturing sectors the hardest in Mr. Scholz’s country — have exacerbated the problem.

Mr. Scholz’s approval ratings have plunged, and some pundits predict that right-wing parties will do better than ever in recent times in elections later this year.

So Mr. Scholz, a cautious labor lawyer from Hamburg, is carefully trying to ease the pain among German voters and avoid a major public debate over military spending. But he has said he is not backing down on what, after the invasion of Ukraine, he termed “Zeitenwende,” or a “turning point” for Germany.

Mr. Biden, too, has seen his public standing on the war effort decline as more Americans, and more Republicans in Congress, have expressed opposition to continued aid. But he has argued that turning away from the conflict is exactly what President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia wants.

“We can’t walk away now,” he said in a speech aimed at lawmakers this week.

Steven Erlanger contributed reporting from Berlin, and Karoun Demirjian from Washington.

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