In the interests of US national security and international peace, Congress must unite to enact new aid for Ukraine in its fight for freedom and democracy in the face of the brutal invasion launched by President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
This week, every Senate Republican voted to block the advancement of a new Ukraine aid package. This indefensible impasse on additional security funding for Ukraine remained despite an explicit warning issued by the White House to Congress that we are “nearly out of time” — and that absent immediate legislative action, we will “run out of resources” to provide Ukraine with additional US weapons and equipment by the end of the year. The failure to enact a security assistance package will definitively “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield” — paving the way for Russian military victory. By letting “Putin and autocracy prevail,” we will also be abandoning our “fight for freedom across the globe” and ignoring “the lessons we have learned from history.”
In support of America’s allies, and in defense of democracy worldwide, President Biden has requested $106 billion in emergency funding — including robust security and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine and Israel. I strongly agree that these allies need our support as they fight against terrorist campaigns perpetrated by ruthless adversaries intent on undermining regional security and the peaceful international order.
Congress has already found bipartisan consensus in protecting the right of Israel to defend itself against Hamas. But the thornier question, at least for a growing number of congressional Republicans, is whether the Ukrainian people deserve our continued military and humanitarian support to resist an escalating war of Russian state-sponsored terrorism that has already killed nearly 10,000 and injured almost 18,000 Ukrainian civilians.
Despite a direct warning from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that absent US aid, “we will lose the war,” the House Republican leadership excluded Ukraine aid from the latest funding package. Moreover, over 100 House Republicans recently voted to gut military assistance to Ukraine by $300 million while 90 voted to prohibit humanitarian assistance to the country. And as evidenced by the House speaker’s race in October, opposition to Ukraine aid has become a litmus test for an extreme faction of the House Republican Conference.
In this age of moral disorientation, one would hope that Republicans might be guided by our founding democratic principles, our nation’s history as a defender of human rights and basic freedoms, and a renewed recognition of America’s exceptionalism and its place in the world.
But if those guiding principles have lost value in the Donald Trump era, perhaps Republicans at least might consider their own history. It has long been Republican Party doctrine to advocate for a strong national defense based upon the premise that the United States has been locked in a struggle for decades to defend basic human rights and fundamental freedoms at home and abroad. Indeed, generations of Republicans have embraced the idea of true American leadership by rallying our allies against the expansionist schemes of brutal dictatorships around the world.
And did not Ronald Reagan achieve greatness in the Republican pantheon by summoning America and the free world to liberate millions in Europe from the Russian system? In fact the Reagan foreign policy doctrine was founded upon the basic tenet of “peace through strength” and a call to move “toward a world in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny.” It was Reagan who firmly demanded of Putin’s predecessor, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
One of the most shameful aspects of the new Republican junta in Washington is its craven abandonment of the Ukrainian people and its willingness to surrender nearly 37 million free people into the hands of Putin.
Last month, I had a chance to join a bipartisan delegation to travel to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky and to take stock of the situation on the ground as we approach the second year of this unlawful war.
The Ukrainian people are valiantly defending their country. Zelensky remains undeterred. Military briefings made clear that the Ukrainian Armed Forces — with US and NATO assistance — have bravely stopped Putin’s onslaught and are continuing with the difficult task of ridding their country of the invading Russian military.
We received no evidence that the Ukrainian government is directing resources anywhere but toward its singular goal of defeating Russia in defense of Ukrainian sovereignty and independence.
We also saw no panic or wavering on the part of the Ukrainian people in their desire to be free. Throughout this conflict the Ukrainian people have been willing to fight and die for their freedom, and to the surprise of many, their courage has brought them no small amount of success. As their sons and daughters continue to die in that noble cause they ask for ongoing assistance from the United States and NATO countries so they might remain a free people.
The Ukrainian people are facing their destiny bravely. Is it too much to hope that Congress might do the same?
Stephen F. Lynch is a US representative from Massachusetts.