All eyes were on Volodymyr Zelensky this Tuesday. The Ukrainian president’s speech was eagerly awaited by world leaders at the 78th General Debate of the UN General Assembly. He had 15 minutes to convince the heads of state and government present that international support for his war-torn country must not be allowed to abate. And he used it. “Evil cannot be trusted,” warned Zelensky, referring to Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. “Ask Prigozhin.”

Zelensky is particularly addressing the Americans. He knows that the support of his strongest partner will be on the ballot in the coming presidential elections. Just a year ago, support for Ukraine was one of the few issues on which Democrats and Republicans could agree. But the longer the war lasts, the more the costly financial aid becomes a hot topic in the election campaign.

Reason enough for Zelenskyj to travel to Washington on Thursday and to speak to the politicians on Capitol Hill.

The general debate comes at a critical time for Ukraine. So far, the army has had difficulty gaining ground in its counteroffensive. In order to remain combat-capable, it therefore relies on a constant supply of weapons and equipment. The US Congress approved $113 billion in total aid for Ukraine last year, of which around $47 billion went directly to military support. However, this pot of money is quickly running out.

A first stress test for support for Ukraine is now being announced in Congress – and thus also for the future role of the USA in the conflict. The Senate, in which US President Joe Biden’s Democrats hold a slim majority, is planning a new 24 billion aid package for Kiev. This should be incorporated into a decision that would extend the deadline for the major contentious issue of the budget. A corresponding vote in the House of Representatives could take place in the coming days.

But it is precisely there – in the Republican-led chamber of Congress – that most of the skeptics sit. While a minority of ultra-right lawmakers have long opposed more funding for Ukraine, increasingly moderate Republicans are also raising concerns. “It’s not just the Freedom Caucus. I think there are a lot of people who are concerned about funding,” moderate conservative Rep. Lisa McClain told The Hill.

This is also confirmed by a report published on Monday by the conservative group “Republicans for Ukraine”, which evaluates the Republicans’ stance on aid to Ukraine. The analysis reveals a deeply divided faction: Of the 222 members, almost as many failed (72) as those who received the top grade (82). “I think this would have shocked me ten years ago,” Gunner Ramer, a spokesman for Republicans for Ukraine, told the Washington Post. “But today it no longer shocks me because this isolationist Republican Party led by Donald Trump no longer stands for what it once stood for.”

How deep the division over Ukraine has become within the “Grand Old Party” is also shown by the opposing positions in the current field of presidential candidates. On one side are the traditional Republicans who believe that the United States must play an important role in world affairs. Former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie each paid a visit to Ukraine to demonstrate their support to the government in Kiev. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is also one of the supporters of the thesis “a victory for Ukraine is a victory for all of us.”

On the other side, an anti-intervention wing is growing that sees intervening in an international conflict as a distraction from more important issues at home. Particularly important here is former President Donald Trump, who is well on his way to running as the Republican candidate against Biden next year. He believes that the war in Ukraine must be “stopped,” but the fight is “much more important for Europe than for the United States.” At his campaign rallies, he boasts that if he becomes president again, he will end the Russian attack within “24 hours.”

Even Trump’s biggest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, does not see the war in Europe as a vital interest of the USA. However, after receiving a lot of criticism for his “territorial dispute” comment, he backtracked. Most recently, DeSantis announced that he would make additional U.S. aid contingent on whether European allies increase their contributions. Political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy, who is rising in the polls, takes a tougher position: He rejects military aid entirely and described it as “disastrous” that the US government is “protecting the border of another country” while the resources are better for “protection should be issued before the invasion of its own southern border.

A look at the surveys shows that a growing majority of Americans are generally more skeptical about new aid for Ukraine. The most recent “CNN poll” in August found that a slim majority (55 percent to 45 percent) opposed further financial aid, with the split falling sharply along party lines. Around 71 percent of the Republicans surveyed said that the USA should not provide any additional funds, while 62 percent of the Democrats were in favor of further aid. A “Fox News” poll painted a similar picture in late August, while a Reagan Institute poll found stronger support for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, President Biden insisted in his own speech at the general debate that the United States remains firmly with Ukraine. “The world must confront naked aggression today to deter other potential aggressors tomorrow,” Biden said on Tuesday. “If we allow Ukraine to be dismembered, will the independence of any nation be secure? The answer is no.” Throughout his term, the 80-year-old Democrat has reaffirmed U.S. leadership in global affairs and repaired many of the relationships that had suffered under his predecessor’s “America First” approach. But given the upcoming election and the fact that Biden and Trump are neck and neck in early polls, his appeal for perseverance is likely to be greeted with frowns in New York.

Political observers in Washington do not consider the handling of the Ukraine war to be as important to voters as the economy, health care or the controversial issue of immigration. “At the moment, Ukraine is not such an important issue for voters,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Pennsylvania, in an interview with the AP news agency. “But we see that Trump, Ramaswamy and DeSantis are paving the way to ask later in the election campaign how much US money we spend there that we could spend at home.”

For Biden’s own political future, a lot will depend on how the war develops in the coming weeks and months. Depending on how well Ukraine’s counteroffensive progresses on the battlefield, it could strengthen – or weaken – its argument about its government’s success as a leading nation on the international stage.

Sources: Washington Post, The Hill, NPR, NY Times, Reuters, CNN Poll, RFU Report, with material from AP and DPA news agencies

Note: This article was updated following Zelensky’s speech.