America’s Priority Has Not Changed When It Comes to Aiding Ukraine
After a year of fighting in Ukraine, some on the political right in the United States have begun to question the wisdom of continuing to back the Ukrainian government. In fact, just last week, a group of legislators introduced a resolution asking the United States to “cease its military and financial aid to Ukraine and [urging] all combatants to reach a peace agreement.” How can it be justified to spend tens of billions of dollars on a war on the other side of the world? This is a valid concern.
Many people’s first thought would be that a brutal dictatorship attacked a younger democracy for no good reason. The Russian government has brutally murdered thousands of Ukrainian civilians and abused and tortured countless more. More than 80% of the population of Ukraine has left the country. Nearly eighteen million people are in need of humanitarian aid. If only for these reasons, the United States should back Ukraine in its war against Russia.
However, the United States’ continued support for Ukraine is clearly in its own self-interest, even when the moral concerns are ignored. Democratic and Republican administrations alike have spent the last three decades working towards President George H. W. Bush’s goal of a “whole and free” Europe. This objective is not motivated by American altruism but by economic and strategic considerations.
One of the largest U.S. trading partners is Europe, with whom the United States does business to the tune of over a trillion dollars per year. The United States’ European allies consistently rank first when it comes to military support, providing tens of thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars to the most recent American-led operations in Afghanistan and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. The safety and success of the United States have been inextricably linked to Europe for decades.
By ensuring Ukraine’s success, we protect not only our own national interests but also those of the European Union and the United States. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses a direct security threat to the United States because it would bring an aggressive power to the doorstep of American allies.
Remember, Russia has tried to assassinate dissidents and operatives on Western soil, directed proxy groups to engage in a terrorism campaign against Western targets, and has meddled in American elections (PDF) (and promised to do so again in the future).
In Syria, Russian mercenaries have even launched full-scale attacks against American troops. Since a Ukrainian victory would also mean a Russian loss, it would serve U.S. interests.
If the United States is serious about discouraging a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or Iranian aggression in the Middle East, it would send a strong message of deterrence by ensuring Russia’s defeat. It sends a clear message that any nation committing such an overt act of aggression is doomed to failure.
The United States has spent tens of billions of dollars on Ukraine’s defence, and so far it can point to thousands of destroyed or damaged Russian vehicles, hundreds of destroyed or damaged aircraft, and a dozen or so damaged ships. Similarly, the United States can highlight Russian defeats on the battlefield near Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson as proof that their investments in Ukraine are bearing fruit. Even though American citizens have a right to question the effectiveness of military spending, it is undeniable that Ukraine has so far been a wise choice.
Furthermore, the conflict in Ukraine has been and will continue to be an important data point. Ukraine has become a live fire test of American weapons, similar to the Arab-Israeli War of 1973. The United States military is learning which systems are effective and which are not on a modern battlefield without risking American lives in the process.
It’s not just the Ukrainian military that benefits from U.S. support there. As a result, when Congress funds military aid to Ukraine, it is effectively allowing the United States to replace its older weapons with newer ones, despite the fact that much of the American military assistance to Ukraine comes from existing, in some cases antiquated, military stockpiles. Providing assistance to Ukraine also benefits the U.S. defence industry and economy in the short term, and increases long-term U.S. capacity to produce everything from artillery rounds to air defence missiles.
Americans have every right to insist that Europe contribute its fair share. The German and French governments, however, have recently committed to a 30% increase in defence spending. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in 2014, Poland’s budget has grown by 70 percent. Military aid to Ukraine has reached even tiny Estonia, which has given the equivalent of 1 percent of its GDP. As a result, the United States is not bearing the entire monetary cost alone.
Despite the fact that it has been a year since the beginning of the Ukraine War, the majority of Americans still intend to provide the necessary aid to the people of Ukraine. Most people recognise this war for what it is: a threat to the liberal international order. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the United States is providing aid to Ukraine primarily in its own self-interest.