Can the U.S. stand with both Israel and Ukraine?


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A digital billboard in Tel Aviv welcomes U.S. President Joe Biden to Israel on Wednesday.

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A digital billboard in Tel Aviv welcomes U.S. President Joe Biden to Israel on Wednesday.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

You know that old saying about being able to walk and chew gum at the same time? Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, is living it as the U.S. pledges support to both Israel and Ukraine.

Who is she? Smith has been the ambassador to NATO since 2021.

  • She is in Brussels and attended two meetings last week: the normal NATO defense ministerial that includes defense ministers from all member states; and the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG), which includes more than 50 countries, and meets to discuss what Ukrainian requirements look like that particular month.

What is the latest?

  • The U.S. now finds itself trying to stand with Israel as it prepares for a ground war in Gaza, and also continuing to stand with Ukraine as war there grinds on.
  • Smith makes the case that, based on the discussions at those two meetings in Brussels, the U.S. has the capacity to do both.
  • Her reassurance comes after a senior NATO official said Western weapon stockpiles are nearing “the bottom of the barrel.” In response, Smith told All Things Considered: “We’ve had 16 of these UDCG meetings, and each and every time, Ukraine walks away with additional forms of assistance. It does not mean that it’s always easy.”
  • At the same time, U.S. support of Ukraine requires commitment and money that’s approved by a Congress that is currently in paralysis without a speaker. Congress also just excluded support for Ukraine in the temporary budget deal, which expires next month. 
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Listen to the Consider This episode on how Palestinians appear to have been killed in reprisal attacks in the West Bank.



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U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels in February 2022.

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U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels in February 2022.

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What is Smith saying?

Smith spoke to All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly this week. Here’s what she said.

On whether aiding both Ukraine and Israel comes at the expense of the United States’ own military readiness:

President Biden has been very clear on this. First and foremost, he said that the United States does indeed have the capacity to help Ukraine defend against Russian aggression and help our friends in Israel. And not only does the United States have the capacity to do that, but the United States has an obligation to do so, and it will not come at the expense of our own national defense.

On whether U.S. Congress paralysis and the temporary budget deal make it harder for her to plan:

We see deep bipartisan support for Ukraine on Capitol Hill. That will not change. We’re confident that we will be able to get additional forms of assistance for our friends in Ukraine going forward. We also have resources right now from which to draw so that support can continue to flow. And that’s an important way to also signal to not only the Ukrainians, but also the Russians, that they can’t simply wait us out.


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President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.S. President Joe Biden walk to the Oval Office of the White House on September 21.

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President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.S. President Joe Biden walk to the Oval Office of the White House on September 21.

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What now?

  • Biden has been steadfast in his support of Israel since the attacks by the militant group Hamas on October 7. Israel is continuing its bombardment of Gaza in response.
  • On Thursday night, Biden will give a national address from the Oval Office, where he is expected to discuss Hamas’ attack, Israel’s response and the war in Ukraine.

Lean more:

  • Here’s the available evidence of what happened at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza
  • Children make up nearly half of Gaza’s population. Here’s what it means for the war
  • Aid could arrive in Gaza starting Friday, Biden says, as calls for a cease-fire grow