By DAVID J. KRAMER
December 23, 2022
While America is not officially a combatant in the ongoing and unprovoked war against Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin started, the United States has provided vital, life-saving support to Ukraine that has made an enormous difference on the battlefield. The announcement Wednesday by the White House that the U.S. will provide one Patriot missile defense system is positive — but nowhere near enough.
Amid a seemingly endless Russian bombing campaign — aided by Iranian drones — designed to freeze and starve Ukrainians into submission (the latest reported example of alleged Russian war crimes) Ukraine needs more than one Patriot system. It needs tanks, more artillery, surface-to-surface missile, rocket launchers and fighter jets. “We have artillery, yes,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his historic speech before a joint session of Congress Wednesday. “Is it enough? Quite honestly, not really.”
Ukraine also needs massive humanitarian assistance such as portable generators, blankets and internet connection devices, as well as financial support for its economy which is hemorrhaging from Putin’s efforts to cripple it. Funding should come from seizing, not just freezing, the hundreds of billions of dollars in Russian funds that the United States and its allies have uncovered in our jurisdictions.
Our efforts should be designed not only to help Ukraine defend itself but to win the war — so that Putin never again threatens Ukraine or any other country in the region.
As it is, Ukrainian forces heroically and successfully have repelled Russian troops that were initially expected to have taken Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and squash the Zelensky government.They have regained some territory that Russia illegally annexed — and even have their sights set on retaking Crimea, the peninsula Russia illegally annexed when Putin invaded the first time in 2014.
Zelensky’s historic visit to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday was his first trip outside of Ukraine since Russia’s re-invasion 300 days ago. He thanked the Biden administration, Congress and the American people for their generous assistance. Coming just as Congress considers an additional $45 billion in military and financial aid for his country, Zelensky, in a brilliantly written and delivered speech, convincingly made the case, saying in a line that will resonate for years that American “money is not charity — it’s an investment in global security.”
Parallels can be drawn with Zelensky’s visit to that of U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s to Washington nearly 81 years ago, weeks after Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. As former President George W. Bush has noted, Zelensky is the Winston Churchill of our time. That Zelensky showed up to the Capitol in his fatigues reinforced the fact that he is leading a nation very much still at war. By helping Ukraine win the war, America is standing with the Ukrainian people as they heroically defend their land and freedom.
But Ukrainians are defending our freedom, too, for if not stopped in Ukraine, Putin could turn his thuggish forces against other countries, maybe even NATO member states. As Zelensky said, Ukraine is not asking for American soldiers to do the fighting for Ukraine but for American military aid to help drive Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. Ukraine is the frontline of freedom, and continuing our support is vital not only to Ukraine but to U.S. national security interests.
Victory for Ukraine over Russia is possible and should be desirable. It should be the stated objective of the United States and all freedom-loving nations around the world. We should not be influenced by Russian threats of escalation, nor should we panic about the consequences of a Russian defeat and what that could mean for Russia itself. Our focus should be on helping the people of Ukraine win and end this war in a way that drives Russian forces off their land for good.
The more assistance we provide and the faster we do it, the sooner Ukraine can succeed, which, in turn, will end the suffering of the Ukrainian people. That is in the interests of the United States. Zelensky’s leadership has been inspiring and courageous, much like the determination of the people of Ukraine to defend their freedom against a brutal, dictatorial power.
Ukrainian victory over Putin would be a huge win for Ukraine, of course, but also a devastating blow not only to Putin but to authoritarianism writ large. It should get China’s President Xi Jinping thinking twice before any possible attack on Taiwan. The stakes are enormous, and Zelensky laid them out for all to understand.
Like Churchill’s speech before Congress Dec. 26, 1941, Zelensky’s address to Congress, and his meeting with President Biden at the White House, should be remembered for a very long time.
As Ukrainians patriotically say, “Slava Ukraini!”
David J. Kramer is executive director of the George W. Bush Institute and a former assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor in the George W. Bush administration.