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The Congress is considering an end-of-year spending bill containing billions in new military aid to Ukraine. Is additional support to Ukraine in the interests of the U.S.?
First, consider Russia’s actions. Russia has long been a geo-strategic foe of the United States, and its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine is only the latest in a series of actions hostile to American security and international peace. Russia invaded its neighbors in 2008 and 2014, threatened the stability of NATO Allies, interfered in U.S. politics, destabilized the Middle East through interventions in Syria and Libya, cheated on arms control agreements, used chemical weapons against dissidents and defectors, and sponsored cyber-attacks against the U.S. and other NATO allies.
Second, consider Russia’s so-called “friends.” Through his alliances with China, Syria and Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin has defined Russia as an adversary to the U.S. An unchecked Putin will continue to escalate tensions and further harm the national and economic security of the U.S. and its allies -including by threatening to use nuclear weapons.
US CONSIDERS SENDING PATRIOT MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM TO UKRAINE
But after almost 10 months of hard ground fighting and with financial and materiel support from the U.S. and Europe, Ukraine is winning its fight against Putin. Ukraine’s bravery and America’s public support have thereby strengthened U.S. national and economic security in at least five ways:
1. Ukraine keeps the war from spreading
World wars start in Europe and the Russian Army rolling westward is a clear and present danger to the U.S. and its NATO allies. The restoration of peace depends on Ukraine pushing the Russians back into their territory. Because our support would allow Ukraine to finish the job, we would prevent a larger European conflict that would drag the U.S. into a world war.
2. Ukraine is degrading a hostile Russia
The Ukrainians are bleeding Russia of manpower and materiel. Take some rough math. In FY22, $730 billion was appropriated for Defense. The U.S. has spent $19.3 billion since the invasion on weapons for the Ukrainians. That is the equivalent to approximately 2.6% of what we are spending annually on defense. 2.6% is a reasonable investment considering that the Ukrainians are significantly degrading the capability of what the U.S. National Defense Strategy calls an “acute” threat. A Russia with diminished war-making capability gives our European allies time to build their forces to meet their NATO obligations, a longstanding U.S. goal. It also allows the US to shift its resources to the Pacific to protect our economic interests and to deter China from invading Taiwan.
3. Ukrainian success helps restore economic vitality
The Russian-Ukrainian War has hurt the European and U.S. economies. It has caused spikes in oil prices. By withholding natural gas transfers to Europe, Putin has weaponized energy to pressure Europe to push Ukraine into early peace talks. Europe is a large economic power; the deeper the European economy goes into recession, the more negatively it will affect the U.S. economy. A Russian win could mean higher energy and food prices for Europe and the U.S. The best way to strengthen the global economy would be to hasten a Ukrainian victory.
4. A victorious Ukraine helps the U.S. competition with China
A Chinese takeover of Taiwan would be an economic calamity for the U.S. and an unrecoverable blow to U.S. power and influence. Taiwan would give China greater market power and proximity to the sea’s busiest lanes of international commerce, enhanced clout to dominate Asia. But China is watching everything that happens in Ukraine.
If Ukraine stalls for lack of military assistance and is forced into early negotiations, China may conclude the west did not have the stomach to hang in long enough for Ukraine to defeat Russia. However, if the U.S. and its allies show resolve and Ukraine is successful in pushing back the Russians, China will think twice before invading Taiwan.
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Transferring weapons to the Ukrainians need not be at the expense of building up U.S. forces in Asia to deter China. First, Congress should fund the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and other budget requests for the Asian theater. Second, Congress should force the Pentagon to be very clear about tradeoffs between Europe and Asia. This would enable the Congress to better allocate funding for scare weapons systems and munitions. Congress should also undertake urgent measures to grow an enhanced industrial base that can contend with a dangerous Russia and a growing China. Also, Congress should consider that Ukrainian success would deal a defeat to China.
According to the U.S. intelligence community, China and Russia are “more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.” A loss for Russia is a loss for China. We need allies in Asia to stand with us against China. If we abandon Ukraine, our would-be Asian allies will conclude we cannot be trusted.
5. A Ukrainian Victory Promotes American Values
Russia’s predatory behavior is a threat to the U.S. because Russia seeks, with its ally China, to destroy the U.S.-led post World War II international system built on freedom, economic openness, and democracy.
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A successful Ukrainian campaign would be a triumph of our values over those of countries that brutalize their populations, repress human rights, and threaten peace and security by fantasizing about lost glory. A Ukrainian victory promotes western values of freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity and international recognized borders, the fundamentals of peace and security.
Ukrainian battlefield success has advanced U.S. vital interests. The Ukrainians have the Russians on the run and need more time and arms to finish the job. Congress should stand firm against Putin by approving additional military aid.
American taxpayers have been generous with Ukraine, and as we ask more of them, Republicans should conduct vigorous oversight to ensure the money is spent responsibly. Republicans have rightly been deeply skeptical of President Joe Biden’s conduct of foreign affairs since the botched Afghanistan withdrawal and need to be assured that the Biden administration has a plan beyond weapons transfers.
Congress should press the secretaries of State and Defense for their strategy — and insist that they come to Capitol Hill often to defend it. Republicans should pursue a detailed accounting of the administration’s spending but additional support will allow Ukraine to maintain its momentum and show that the democratic West has toughness and resolve in the face of geopolitical foes. This is the first war of the new great power competition with Russia and China, and we must win it.