US House Speaker changed his mind on Ukraine aid after reviewing intelligence and reports of Russian war crimes

Ivanna Kostina, KATERYNA TYSHCHENKO — Sunday, 21 April 2024, 19:22

Mike Johnson, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, reportedly changed his mind about aid for Ukraine – following months of refusing to vote on the Ukraine aid bill without also implementing measures to secure the US southern border – after reviewing intelligence and reports of Russian war crimes.

Source: The New York Times (NYT)

Details: "For weeks after the Senate passed a sprawling aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, Speaker Mike Johnson agonised over whether and how the House would take up funding legislation that would almost certainly infuriate the right wing of his party and could cost him his job," the NYT wrote.

Johnson met with top national security officials, including CIA Director William Burns, in the Oval Office to discuss classified intelligence and held numerous meetings with groups of Republicans from different districts to understand their voters’ attitudes toward funding Ukraine. 

Finally, when his plan to work with Democrats to clear the way for aiding Ukraine met with opposition from ultraconservative Republicans who threatened to depose him, Johnson, an evangelical Christian, "knelt and prayed for guidance", according to the NYT.

"I want to be on the right side of history," Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, recalled Speaker Johnson saying.

Johnson’s decision to risk his speakership to push the US$95 billion foreign aid bill through the House on Saturday was the culmination of what the NYT described as Johnson’s "remarkable personal and political arc".

"History judges us for what we do," Johnson told reporters at the Capitol last week. "This is a critical time right now. I could make a selfish decision and do something that’s different. But I’m doing here what I believe to be the right thing. I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important."

Johnson attributed his change of mind in part to the intelligence briefings he received.

"I really do believe the intel," Johnson said. "I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed. I think he might go to the Baltics next. I think he might have a showdown with Poland or one of our NATO allies."

People familiar with the discussions told the NYT that one of the most impactful briefings took place in February 2024 in the Oval Office, when congressional leaders met with US President Joe Biden to discuss government funding and aid for Ukraine. During the meeting, Burns and other top national security officials sought to convince Johnson that Ukraine was rapidly running out of ammunition, and that if Ukrainian air defences were no longer reinforced by American weaponry, the consequences would be dire.

Convinced that they would come around to his way of thinking, Johnson repeatedly urged Republicans who opposed funding Ukraine to receive the same intelligence briefings.

Johnson was also struck by the stories he heard in meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others about the suffering and misery Russian forces have unleashed across Ukraine. This tugged at Johnson’s "sense of Christian faith".

During a meeting with select lawmakers, Johnson "made it pretty clear that if we didn’t get this done in April, that it could be too late for Ukraine," Representative Don Bacon, Republican of Nebraska, said.


  • On 20 April, the US House of Representatives approved a bill to provide about $61 billion in military aid for Ukraine, with 311 representatives voting in favour of the bill and 112 against.
  • The bill will now be submitted to the Senate as an amendment to the Senate bill on foreign aid, HR.815, which was passed in February. This should simplify the procedure for approving the package in the Senate.
  • US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that US senators will come out of recess to vote on aid to Ukraine on Tuesday 23 April.
  • ​​US President Joe Biden has promised to sign the approved aid bill.

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