The failure of then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to include aid to Ukraine in a stopgap spending bill has sent an ominous signal, not only to Kyiv but also to our European allies, calling into question our commitment to defend Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
The Ukrainian people, beleaguered and under relentless and unjustified attack, have demonstrated remarkable resilience in a fight with implications for America’s core values and interests. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in his December 2022 address to a joint session of Congress, declared:
The battle is not only for life, freedom and security of Ukrainians or any other nation which Russia attempts to conquer. This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live.
Now, decisions made in Washington will shape the trajectory of U.S. interests in Ukraine and in the world for years—if not decades—to come. But not everyone in Washington is as clear-sighted. A small core of far-right extremists seeks to vacate the U.S. commitment to Ukraine. This short-sighted push is oblivious to the long-term strategic benefits that a free Ukraine provides to the United States and the world. Immediate assistance to Ukraine is a critical part of addressing core American equities.
1. Immediate assistance is required to stand up to Russian aggression and prevent an escalation of U.S. involvement in an overseas conflict
Continuing robust aid to Ukraine is a powerful deterrent to future Russian aggression. A Russian victory in Ukraine could encourage President Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions, possibly leading him to target a member of NATO. That could lead to a direct U.S.-Russia conflict that would put American lives at risk and increase the possibility of a broader war. Funding Ukraine now is a strategic investment to prevent greater costs later.
2. Immediate assistance would help meet Ukrainian security needs at an acute moment
The resilience and bravery of the Ukrainian people is buttressed in large part by the steady support of the United States and its allies. But Ukraine’s military is under operational strain. Ammunition is depleting rapidly, as troops fire 2,000 to 3,000 artillery shells daily. The United States has supplied more than 2 million 155mm artillery rounds, but the demand persists. Russia’s extensive land mines have slowed the counteroffensive, pushing Ukraine to rely even more on distant artillery targeting. Senior U.S. military officials warn that gaps in funding could delay essential military supplies as Russia prepares for a winter offensive. A funding impasse now sends the wrong signal to the Ukrainians amid brutal fighting.
3. Immediate assistance to Ukraine strengthens European resolve
Putin is taking a long-game approach to the war in Ukraine, hoping he can outlast the will of the United States and other allies to continue help to Ukraine. The current dysfunction in House leadership and certain developments in Europe may be validating the Kremlin’s bet.
Shifts in European politics underscore the urgency. Slovakia, for instance, recently saw the election of Robert Fico, who campaigned on a pledge to end Slovak military assistance to Ukraine. Poland, one of Kyiv’s closest and most vocal allies, announced it would cease weapons transfers to Ukraine after a dispute over Ukrainian grain exports to the European Union. It is imperative that the alliance remains unified, and all members continue to move military assistance to Ukraine at this critical moment, including the United States, Slovakia, Poland, the rest of NATO, and other allies and partners. The United States is the fulcrum for this effort; our continued assistance is critical for fulfilling this role too.
It was U.S. leadership on Ukraine that first solidified and then strengthened the NATO alliance, demonstrated most notably by Sweden’s and Finland’s swift moves to seek NATO membership as well as steps by Germany and other NATO allies to bolster their own military capabilities. U.S. leadership continues to be central to sustaining and directing NATO’s strategic approach to countering Russia’s aggression.
4. Assistance to Ukraine is a strategic and affordable investment
Ukraine stands as a bulwark against Russian aggression and absorbs most of the associated costs. As some critics lament a $76.8 billion tab in total U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including $46.7 billion in military aid, it is essential to put this figure into perspective. The amount represents a mere 0.65 percent of total federal spending over the past two years.
The U.S. approach to the Ukraine conflict is, in fact, smart strategically and fiscally. The United States provides material and financial support to a partner as it counters and weakens a dangerous adversary. U.S. troops are not pulled into the conflict, driving to zero the risk of American battlefield casualties as well as the financial burden required by U.S. military deployments. This is critically important, as conflict escalates in the Middle East and as the Department of Defense faces China’s increasing military strength.
5. Sustained assistance to Ukraine influences China’s strategic calculus
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pointed out that China is keenly watching the world’s response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Any perceived inconsistency in U.S. support for Ukraine risks emboldening China for its far-reaching territorial ambitions, notably in Taiwan. Taiwan’s representative in Washington, Bi-khim Hsiao, contends that if the West abandons Ukraine, that would signal to the Taiwanese people that they are alone, which plays into Beijing’s propaganda.
Blinken has further highlighted the evolving China-Russia relationship, raising concern over how this authoritarian axis is threatening the rules-based international order. In this context, steadfast support for Ukraine is not just about a single nation’s sovereignty; it is a strategic stance to reinforce global norms.
In moments of crisis, as seen in Ukraine—and now in Israel and Palestine—the world looks first to the United States for leadership and help. In each case, there are core U.S. interests at stake as our partners seek support for their critical security needs. Just as Congress has shown staunch historical support for America’s ally in Israel, now is the time for Congress to demonstrate its support to our partner Ukraine in its time of greatest crisis.