Joe Biden was forced to reassure Western allies that Washington will continue supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia after billions of dollars of aid were ditched from a crucial government bill.
The US President told Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, and other leaders in a call that he was confident Congress would eventually back his demand for weapons and money for Volodymyr Zelensky’s army.
He had earlier signed legislation to avoid a federal government shutdown, which was passed by Congress after a last minute deal on Saturday, that sparked fears in Europe.
Mr Biden had asked Congress for $24 billion (about £19.8 billion) but the final deal to keep the government funded scrapped even a much-reduced sum of $6 billion for Kyiv.
Kevin McCarthy, the newly ousted Republican House speaker, warned Mr Biden he was “failing” to secure the support of the American public.
Mr McCarthy was deposed by conservatives within his party in an historic vote on Tuesday night, in part due to a dispute over funding for Ukraine. Speaking afterwards, Mr McCarthy said he supported arming Ukraine and said that what is happening “looks a lot like the 1930s” in Germany.
He said: “A lot of actions that Putin takes is very similar to Hitler”.
He added: “And I fear making the same mistake twice. And sending the wrong messages. But the thing I would tell everybody is, more Americans are dying on the southern [US] border than dying in Ukraine.”
The White House had earlier convened a call with the leaders of Nato members Canada, Germany, Italy, Romania and Britain, as well as the European Commission, the European Council and Japan. France’s foreign minister took part because Emmanuel Macron was not available.
Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, said Mr Biden told the leaders that there was far broader support for Ukraine in Congress than media reports would suggest.
“President Joe Biden began with telling us about the situation in the US and what is the real political situation around Ukraine,” said Mr Duda, whose nation shares a border with Ukraine and has taken in almost one and half million refugees from the country.
“He assured us that there is backing for the continuing support for Ukraine, first of all for the military support. He said that he will get that backing in the Congress.”
“We stand united and ready to provide additional military equipment, financial and political support for Ukraine. Peace and security in Ukraine equals peace and security in Europe,” Charles Michel, the European Council president, said after the call.
The US has so far provided more than £93 billion to Ukraine, as well as tanks, helicopters, millions of rounds of ammunition and advanced guided missile launchers.
But the Pentagon is running low on money to replace “critical” weapons sent to Ukraine, according to a leaked letter to congressional leaders.
There is £1.3 billion left to replenish the stocks, which were urgently needed to fight an expected Russian winter offensive, the letter from the Department of Defence’s chief financial officer said.
Without additional funding now, the US will have to delay or curtail deliveries of air defences, drones and ammunition to Ukraine, it added.
“We cannot under any circumstances allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Mr Biden said after Congress passed the bill to fund government operations until mid-November.
“Stop playing games, get this done,” he added, little more than a week after President Zelensky was in Washington to ask for more help.
As the war has dragged on, there is growing resistance to provide aid for Ukraine from within an increasingly isolationist Republican party.
Criticism of the support has come mainly from Republicans who support Donald Trump, the frontrunner to face Mr Biden in next year’s presidential election.
Last week, nearly half of Republicans in Congress voted to cut $300 million (£246 million) to train Ukrainian soldiers and buy weapons from a defence bill. The aid was later approved separately.
Mr McCarthy said last weekend he supports linking new funding to tougher controls on the US border with Mexico.
There are fears the dispute will encourage Putin to engage in a longer war in the hope that war fatigue in the West will eventually take its toll.
‘US support has not faltered’
On Monday, Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, said stripping out the aid was an isolated event.
“We are now working with both sides of Congress so that it does not happen again under any circumstances,” he said. “Therefore, we do not believe that US support has faltered.”
Despite the victory of a pro-Russia populist in elections in Slovakia last weekend, Europe has sent increasing amounts of weapons and aid to Ukraine.
But it would not be able to scale up military or economic support to plug a hole left by the loss of US assistance.
Brussels is ready to release billions of euros in frozen EU funds to Hungary to convince Budapest to support an increase in financial support to Ukraine, the Financial Times reported.
The European Commission wants a £57.2 billion top up to the EU budget to cover increased costs, including a £43.3 billion support programme for Kyiv for the next four years.
Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, has vowed to block any boost, unless his country receives the frozen levelling-up funds, which were blocked over concerns over his backsliding on the rule of law.