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The Complexities Surrounding Continued US Aid to Ukraine

Updated: May 23

Lance Moore

On February 24th, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, with Russian military forces entering Ukraine from Belarus, Russia, and annexed Crimea. Before the current invasion, the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donbas have been in a perpetual state of conflict between Ukrainian military forces and Russian-backed separatists since 2014. 

The prevailing analysis when the invasion began from Western governments and media outlets was that Russian military forces would completely overwhelm Ukraine in days, weeks, or at most, months. The Ukrainians were perceived to be improperly equipped to defend themselves and did not have the will to fight an enemy regularly regarded as the second-strongest military in the world. However, a year and a half later, Ukraine is very much on the front foot in combatting Russia's invasion, with murmurs of outright victory growing louder and louder by the day. 

So, how has Ukraine defied the odds against a stronger and better-equipped enemy?

The U.S.-led push to defend and supply Ukraine with aid while rallying skeptical Western allies, particularly European nations and NATO partners, has turned out to be the catalyst needed for Ukraine to stand a real shot at defeating an enemy which it shares a border with, as well as ethnic, cultural, historical, and political heritage.

The U.S. has made supporting Ukraine its critically strategic and morally imperative goal as the conflict, and the ramifications of its outcome, poses a greater long-term geopolitical chess match taking place across other regions. U.S. President Joe Biden frequently states that the U.S. will be there for Ukraine "as long as it takes". 

However, this may be easier said than done if the war continues into a potentially more protracted conflict, particularly with the 2024 Elections bearing down on the U.S. political apparatus. President Biden faces increased political headwinds from Republicans in a far-right controlled House of Representatives, murmured skepticism from his own party's far-left progressive wing, although with the luxury of strangely united bipartisan support in the Senate on this issue, in continuing to request additional billions from Congress for Ukraine security assistance. Not to mention a supportive American voter whose support is beginning to wane. 

To date, according to estimates provided by the U.S. Department of Defense in the last few days, the U.S. has provided nearly $46 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, which includes: military equipment (air, ground, and maritime defense), ammunition, intelligence, communication equipment, logistics, training, medical supplies, humanitarian aid, and other financial assistance.

As with any issue currently being discussed and debated in the U.S. political environment, agreement never comes easy. In fact, according to a variety of polls across different media outlets, Americans are divided on the issue of continued U.S. aid to Ukraine, with a slight edge towards those who approve. 

Notably, voters who identify as Democrats broadly support President Biden's efforts to aid Ukraine. In contrast, Republican voters have trended in the opposite direction as the far-right conservative isolationists of the Republican Party continue to push out the Reagan and Bush era interventionist-minded neoconservatives (neocons). There are many arguments for and against continued U.S. aid to Ukraine, including those in the middle who advocate for more aid but with gradual reductions and Congressional auditing power as memories of two decades of war in Afghanistan still carry significant weight in the psyche of the American voter. 

The top arguments for providing aid are ideological, strategic, and moral for the U.S. Victory for Ukraine against its old enemy and geopolitical rival, Russia, is closely tied to America's national security interests and democratic values. A Ukraine defeat would create a more dangerous and unstable world where the forces of democracy and autocracy are in a state of constant battle. Autocratic regimes are watching the war play out to determine what lines can or cannot be crossed. What happens in Ukraine and the actions of Western nations of democratic idealism can potentially alter the course of potential future conflict. 

One such example is the case of China's future potential invasion of Taiwan, which sees Taiwan in the same way Russia perceives Ukraine, a wayward part of itself that needs to be reunited with the motherland. China sees itself as the next great superpower and chief economic and geopolitical rival to the U.S. The war's outcome in Ukraine will have sweeping implications for preserving peace and stability across many regions of the world. Stabilizing and rebuilding Ukraine's economy and its governmental capacity will be critical in the near term to support Ukraine's capacity to win the war and, over the long term, build the political and economic resilience of a key strategic ally to the U.S., Europe, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Continued U.S. aid to Ukraine provides a path for the U.S. to continue to strengthen its international position as well as the opportunity to improve its complex image as a democratic leader in the world. It is not obvious to the American public, but the war in Ukraine has revealed the Western military industry's supremacy and the Western warfare model over what Russia can offer. 

Furthermore, suppose the U.S. wishes to retain its mantle as a champion for human rights in partnership with Europe and NATO. In that case, it must also continue to provide non-military economic and humanitarian assistance to a Ukrainian nation that will need to rebuild after the war. This is particularly important to overcome the skepticism of the non-Western world toward the Western democratic nations, especially the U.S., who have felt betrayed by "Western values" over the last few decades.

The prospect of continued U.S. aid to Ukraine remains murky at best and will face serious obstacles as the war progresses. The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives and Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, is signaling a fight with the White House over the issue of U.S. spending. A larger funding fight is increasing speculation of a potential government shutdown.

Many House Republicans are subject to strong anti-spending pressures from their constituents and to the effects of the likely Republican presidential nominee's (former President Trump) longstanding anti-Ukraine pro-Russia views. President Biden is likely to remain optimistic as the Republican makeup of the U.S. Senate largely favors continued support to Ukraine and will likely enact serious pressure on Speaker McCarthy to keep House Republicans in line on the issue. 

However, it is not just Republicans in Congress that present obstacles to further Ukraine support. The support of the American voter, both Democrat and Republic, particularly amongst the working and middle class, is on a negative trend. Economic stressors and tensions caused by sticky inflation, higher gas prices and grocery costs, as well as other domestic issues, are causing many American voters to become uncomfortable with the idea of further supporting a conflict in another far-off country. 

Ultimately, continued U.S. aid to Ukraine may become an issue of timing. The longer the war persists, the greater the chances of domestic obstacles at home becoming a significant roadblock for the U.S. to maintain its current stance and leadership in rallying support for Ukraine.

This article was shared in collaboration with Global Weekly.

Image: The White House

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