In 2011, President Barack Obama withdrew all U.S. troops from Iraq. The result was the rise of the Islamic State followed by Tehran’s deeper penetration into the country. Can we agree that Obama made a grievous strategic error?
In 2021, President Joe Biden withdrew all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The result was a swift takeover of the country by the Taliban in association with Al-Qaeda. Can we agree that Biden made a grievous strategic error?
The United States has no troops in Ukraine. Ukrainians only ask for the weapons they need to defend themselves from invaders waging a war of conquest. Can we agree that abandoning them would be a grievous strategic error?
The answer, apparently, is no.
On the left, such groups as Code Pink demand Congress “end the costly and deadly war by prioritizing diplomacy over weapons.”
And on the right, more than half of House Republicans last week aligned with Code Pink by voting against additional military assistance for Ukraine.
An old national security hawk like me can’t change the minds of far-left blame-America-firsters.
But I can remind those of you in the center and center-right that cutting off military assistance to Ukraine would benefit Communist China, Communist North Korea and Islamist Iran—all of whom have expansionist ambitions of their own and all of whom want to repeal the American-established international prohibition against erasing nation-states by military force.
Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine was informed by his perception that America and Europe would not respond in any significant way. He continues to believe that American and European resolve will prove weaker than his.
Those who favor cutting support for Ukraine make many arguments. I’ll attempt to rebut 10 that, at first glance, may appear convincing.
1: We can’t afford it.
Since February 2022, only the equivalent of 3.5% of Pentagon spending has gone to assist Ukraine. That investment has significantly reduced the military capabilities of America’s No. 2 adversary.
Most American dollars earmarked for Ukraine’s resistance go to American workers in American factories whose output replaces the old weapons we’re sending to Ukraine with new weapons.
Some of those new weapons will be improved because Ukrainian warfighters are testing them in combat.
Another benefit: We are now awakened to the fact that our defense/industrial base is woefully inadequate. It’s vital that we fix it.
2: The war in Ukraine is only a territorial dispute.
That was the dominant—and incorrect—theory after Putin carved two provinces from Georgia in 2008, and annexed Crimea in 2014.
Putin sees himself as a latter-day czar/commissar. His mission is to restore the Russian/Soviet empire. As Edward Lucas, the British Russia-watcher, journalist and author of “The New Cold War”—first published back in 2008—told me last week: “An imperial Russia can’t be at peace with its neighbors.” More than a few of those neighbors are NATO allies.
3: If we pivot away from Ukraine, we’ll be able to focus more intensively on defending Taiwan from Xi Jinping, China’s ruler.
Do you not think that Xi would ask himself: If the Americans fatigue this easily, how many of their ships will I need to sink before they turn tail and let me run roughshod over Asia and beyond?
4: Ukraine is riddled with corruption and therefore not worth saving.
There’s no evidence of American weapons being diverted outside of Ukraine. As for funds, both the United States and Ukraine now have stringent oversight in place, though more would doubtless be better.
Recall that corruption was a huge problem in South Korea when we saved it from Communist domination. Today, Transparency International rates that country higher than Portugal, Spain, or Italy. And need I remind you that corruption has not been eliminated in the United States?
5: The United States should not be concerned with Russian tanks illegally crossing Ukraine’s borders so long as millions of aliens are illegally crossing America’s borders.
The problem is not that Biden lacks the resources to secure the border. The problem is that, in deference to “open border” advocates, he refuses to try.
6: Ukraine is Europe’s problem.
Under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a pledge by the United States “to provide assistance to Ukraine…if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression.” Russia pledged to “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” Russia doesn’t keep its promises. America should.
7: Our NATO allies are freeriding.
According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, total European commitments “are now twice as large” as America’s. That said, some of our allies require arm-twisting.
8: NATO expansion caused Russia to invade Ukraine.
NATO is a defensive, not aggressive alliance. Putin opposes NATO expansion because, as FDD’s Bradley Bowman has argued, NATO members are tougher to bully.
Besides, to join NATO requires the agreement of all members. Germany is among those who would not have given consent. Putin knew that.
9: There should be a “diplomatic solution.”
Putin will not seriously negotiate until and unless he is convinced that it’s useless waiting for Americans to quit. Cutting aid leads him to conclude the opposite.
10: “Russia’s recolonization of Ukraine will not matter to most Americans.”
That outcome will be perceived, with justification, as an American defeat—one all the more significant for following Biden’s surrender in Afghanistan and Mr. Obama’s precipitate retreat from Iraq. Serious consequences, not difficult to imagine, will unfold over time. Down this road, the restoration of American greatness does not lie.