When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February of 2022, the response from NATO and the West was swift, purposeful, and massive. According to PBS, the United States , leading the charge amongst Ukraine’s allies, has given Ukraine almost $77 billion in total aid. The U.S. has so far provided Ukraine with “Abrams battle tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, coastal defense ships, and advanced surveillance and radar systems” as noted by the Council on Foreign Relations.
To say that the U.S. has been Ukraine’s primary supporter would still not fully encompass the importance and essential nature of American help to the country defending the integrity of its sovereignty. Despite vast amounts of aid from various other western countries, Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive “continues to make slow progress,” as reported by BBC News. The stagnant nature of this counter-offensive has led to a re-evaluation of long-term U.S. aid to Ukraine by many top officials.
This newfound divide in American politics complicates an issue that was a rare form of strong bipartisanship within the U.S. Congress for a long time. However, The Associated Press reports that “Republican resistance to the aid has been gaining momentum and the next steps are ahead, given the resistance from the hard right flank.” Republicans view the providing of aid as a path with no foreseeable conclusion and a vulnerability in the budget of the U.S. depending on the length of the c conflict’s timeline. For many, there is a concern that the culmination of aid will eventually amount to a much more significant value than what would be fiscally responsible, particularly given the already divisive political perspectives regarding the focus of government spending.
However, the argument in favor of continued aid of Ukraine is a moral one, rather than a geopolitical one. Aiding Ukraine, a fellow Western liberal democracy, is paramount given its clash with the authoritarian state of Russia. In a moral and ideological framework, this is a strong argument in favor of aiding allies in Ukraine. Yet some emphasize that there is an economic limit to the moral prerogative that the West maintains during this conflict, and that it cannot be viewed as a limitless option for Ukraine.
Regardless of this argument, there are essential geopolitical implications that must be taken into consideration to fortify further support of aiding Ukraine. Ukraine’s location in a geographic sense, and in a political sense, are critical points when discussing its security in the context of a European state. Foreign Policy illustrates that there were long held views that regarded Ukraine as a ‘buffer state’ between Russia and the rest of Europe. Culturally, economically and politically, Ukraine served as the balancing act between the powers of Europe. This created an inherent tenuous relationship for Ukraine with both sides of that tension.
Foreign Policy then adds that “the buffer zone strategy was clearly suboptimal.” NATO did not correctly predict the growing pains of such a strategy or the assumed threats it would create. Russia, feeling itself threatened by the prospect of Ukraine shifting even slightly in favor of the West, annexed Crimea, and then proceeded to invade the rest of the country. This proved indicative not only of the U.S. and NATO incorrectly assessing the role of Ukraine, but then vulnerably positioning Kiev to face Russia when Putin felt most frightened by the West’s power. This could even become cyclical if Ukraine is not properly aided, as the Wilson Center adds, “…all Eastern Europe would be under constant direct military threat from Russia.”
While supporting Ukraine appears as a move rooted in multilateralism, it is inherently selfish in some ways. Contradictory to the argument that the U.S.’s innate self-interest is in isolation, there is an incredible opportunity to be made from Ukraine’s conflict with Russia. Ukraine’s stance towards Russia will only worsen, while the opportunities to take back territory and re-establish sovereignty will increase, resulting in the solidification of an essential ally in Eastern Europe.
In terms of entrenching U.S. influence in Europe and presenting a strong front towards Russia in a long-term sense, the U.S. should not do anything to risk its relationship with Ukraine. The U.S. must also keep in mind that simply backing off of the conflict, whether it is gradual or sudden, projects a message of indifference and lack of awareness that the U.S. lacks the political capital to ignore. With the U.S. losing even further credibility, it would only increase the risk of further skepticism of the U.S.’s commitment to maintaining its position as protector of democracy and its allies abroad.
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