Russia’s brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine must offend all lovers of liberty. Moreover, if Moscow prevails, it would strengthen Russia and China to the detriment of America.
That said, how America supports Ukraine must be based, like any matter of foreign policy, on what serves the interests of all Americans. No policy should get a “blank check,” and support for Ukraine is no exception.
When Russia first invaded, we laid down four markers for President Biden to follow if he wants to maintain bipartisan support for U.S. engagement in Ukraine. So far, they’ve been uniformly ignored by the White House.
Instead, the administration has doubled down on their strategy of giving Ukraine just enough to not lose the war, but not enough to win it. They market this approach with the motto: “As much as it takes for as long as it takes.”
The fighting in Europe is now entering a critical phase. If Biden is truly interested in protecting America’s interests, he will take steps now to deliver assistance to Ukraine that conservatives can support.
Here (again) are the markers…
No. 1. Support for Ukraine must be fiscally responsible
Biden has made support for Ukraine contingent on congressional approval of a multitrillion-dollar hike in discretionary domestic spending. Those completely unrelated spending increases are symptomatic of the massive prodigal spending that has driven U.S. debt to unsustainable levels, fueled inflation and retarded the post-COVID economic recovery. This must stop.
Conservatives in Congress are negotiating with the administration to develop a responsible package before raising the debt limit. Moreover, future Ukraine aid should be addressed in stand-alone legislation, not held hostage to an extravagant, partisan domestic agenda.
No. 2. Assistance should focus on military support
The U.S. should focus on what it does best: providing unique military capabilities that are critical to Ukraine’s self-defense. Let European Union partners shoulder the burden for civil society assistance.
A caveat here: We need not provide every bit of military aid Ukraine requests. Their “asks” are not always practical. F-16s are a case in point. Still, the U.S. could continue providing arms and ammunition crucial to the war effort, while still being mindful of potential obligations in the Pacific.
No. 3. The administration must articulate a plan
Let’s be honest: Biden doesn’t have a plan for the transatlantic alliance, let alone the war in Ukraine. From the get-go, the administration has been consistently wrong in its assessment of Ukrainian capabilities and Russian military strength. Biden has scared himself silly thinking that supporting Ukraine “too much” would lead to escalation with Vladimir Putin and, so, has not prioritized bringing the conflict to an end.
Congress has an obligation to U.S. taxpayers to demand a feasible, suitable plan for securing long-term U.S. interests in Europe. This will entail leveraging allies who are stepping up on burden sharing and meeting their commitments to collective security and taking a sterner stance with those who don’t.
No. 4. There must be full transparency on all aid given to Ukraine
Ukraine’s has a well-documented history of endemic corruption. It is only right to demand that the aid we provide be fit for purpose and wholly accountable.
The appointment of a special inspector general is one way to assure the necessary oversight. The Senate recently voted down a proposal to do so, but a similar provision has been proposed for inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Not only is accountability owed to every taxpayer; it is also crucial to the effectiveness of U.S. aid. No dollar is worth spending if it doesn’t get to the right place to do the right thing, and thus far Kyiv has resisted giving assurances that no U.S. aid funds will be used to support reconstruction contracts with state-owned Chinese companies or to free up other monies for that purpose.
After 14 horrific months of Putin’s “three-day war,” many Americans are justifiably focused on when and how the war will end. But President Biden and Congress must focus on something even more important: How do we ensure the war ends on terms that protect U.S. national security interests?
Absent attention to the four commonsense steps outlined here, President Biden risks undermining bipartisan support for the war, and he will have only himself to blame for it.
Victoria Coates is a senior research fellow in Heritage’s Thatcher Center for Freedom.