To: House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense
March 23, 2023
The Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) is a non-partisan coalition of former ambassadors, leading policy and international security professionals including two former Supreme Allied Commanders Europe and a former U.S. Army Commander Europe. It also includes other experts who have dealt with key aspects of Ukraine’s relations with the United States and the international community.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, FOUN submits this statement to your hearing on the Fiscal Year 2024 Request for The Department of Defense not to suggest exact funding levels of weapons systems to Ukraine, but to call for clarity in the United States’ mission in Ukraine and for long-range precision strike capability.
The United States has a critical national security interest in defending the post-World War II order that is based upon respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states and the peaceful settlement of disputes – no changing of national borders by force or coercion.
The United States also has a critical national security interest in ensuring peace and stability in Europe and a commitment to defend its NATO allies.
If Vladimir Putin is allowed to get away with violating these principles in the case of Ukraine, he will not stop – other states in the region, including NATO members, could be the next targets of Putin’s goal of restoring the Russian empire. Other autocrats, including Xi Jinping, well may be emboldened to follow the Russian Federation’s example, returning the world to the days of spheres of influence and “might makes right.”
The United States needs to take an unequivocal stand in Ukraine, where the courageous people of Ukraine are on the front lines fighting for their own freedom but also critically defending the post-World War II order. Otherwise, we will face the need for direct and much more costly United States intervention down the road.
In this context what is lacking most in the United States’ support for Ukraine is clarity as to our strategic endgame and a commitment to Ukraine’s winning. And winning means all Russian forces leave Ukraine, abducted and missing are returned or accounted for, reparations are paid, and war criminals are identified and brought to justice. A Korean War-type armistice is not sufficient.
Only when this commitment is clarified and stated as official United States policy can the other critical details in getting Ukraine what it needs to win be genuinely addressed. “We are with Ukraine for as long as it takes” is not a strategic goal. As long as it takes to do what?
Such amorphous terminology frankly seems inappropriate in the circumstance. Innocent lives are being lost, war crimes committed, and in the case of Russia’s kidnapping Ukrainian children,
changing their names, birth certificates, putting through indoctrination programs and then having them adopted as Russians by Russian families. Genocide is being committed in the full view of the world.
The United States’ policy goal should be that it will make sure Ukraine has what it needs, when it needs it and where it needs it so that Ukraine can win this war securing its sovereignty and – critically – the post-World War II order, which is in the United States’ own vital national security interests.
“As long as it takes” suggests, among other things, that time is on Ukraine’s and our side. That is not so; it is in our interest and Ukraine’s to finish this war promptly, before Russia can bring its superior manpower and other sources of material to bear.
In reviewing the United States military’s support for Ukraine, one must acknowledge the comparatively unprecedented support in arms, logistics, intelligence and training the United States military has provided. No nation has done more. No military has been and is more invested in supporting Ukraine.
That support has been critical to Ukraine’s being able to stay on the battlefield and counter the Russian Federation’s totally unprovoked and malevolent war against Ukraine.
But the United States has not done enough and has not committed to making sure Ukraine has what it needs now to win this war.
Since the very beginning of this war in 2014 Ukraine has needed weapons and support the United States – through Administrations — has, at best, been slow to provide.
Initially there was the whole back-and-forth about whether Ukraine should be provided any weapons, then what kind of weapons.
There was the whole drawn-out issue about what might be called “lethal” weapons.
To its great credit Congress started including specific language in the annual National Defense Authorizations Acts and Defense Department Appropriations bills stating that specific amounts were for lethal weapons for Ukraine.
The fact is that essentially every request from Ukraine for specific capability was initially met with a “no”. And, even though most such weapons eventually were provided to Ukraine, they were not provided at the optimum time for them to have made the greatest impact on the war.
What Ukraine needs most right now is long-range precision strike capability.
Such a capability has been and is being denied Ukraine and what is the consequence of that denial? The United States has essentially guaranteed Russia sanctuaries from which Russia can with impunity slaughter civilians and destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure including hospitals, schools, and residential living quarters.
What is the explanation for denying Ukraine the ability to strike these sanctuaries?
The United States does not want Ukraine striking targets inside Russia because that could escalate the war.
Set aside the disconnect with reality regarding the entire subject of escalation. The United States has given Ukraine some weapons capable of hitting targets inside Russia and, because the United States has said not to do so, Ukraine has not used them to hit targets inside Russia.
So why is the United States not trusting Ukraine when it comes to long-range precision strike capability?
Why also does the United States agree that (a) the Crimean peninsula is Ukrainian territory and (b) that Ukraine should be able to hit any target in its own territory, and yet it continues to deny Ukraine long-range missiles? Some of Russia’s most damaging attacks come from sanctuaries in Crimea.
Crimea is essential.
The United States must get to Ukraine what it needs to take out the Russian sanctuaries and cut off Russian supply routes to Crimea. Russian control of Crimea cannot stand. Without Crimea, Ukraine has no security because of the continuous threat of Russian attack and the Black Sea fleet’s ability to control and stop Ukraine’s international commerce.
We urge that Congress specifically fund long-range precision strike capability for Ukraine in the FY24 Defense Appropriations Bill and provide that such monies are to be spent and weapons provided as soon as the bill is signed into law.
Likewise, we urge that the bill call for absolute clarity in the United States’ objective as to the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, and that it be to ensure that Ukraine wins and defeats Russia.
The time has long since passed when “standing with Ukraine” is enough while its people are slaughtered and Ukraine’s neighbors – and our NATO allies – shudder at what comes next if the United States does not see that Ukraine has what it takes to win this war.
Right now, the Russian military is almost fully committed and weak. If it is not stopped now and is given several years to regroup it likely will be much stronger through sanctions evasion, material assistance from Iran, North Korea and China and its forces still positioned in Crimean sanctuaries.
Once Ukraine has the weapons it needs, it will dominate the battlefield and when this becomes clear on the battlefield, it will be in the strongest position to negotiate Russia’s withdrawal from all of Ukraine. But negotiations will only succeed if Ukraine has the military potential to win, as we define it.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, the time to get Ukraine what it needs is now. While urging the administration provide such assistance today, your FY24 appropriations must direct that these capabilities be sent to Ukraine as soon as possible.
Co-Founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director, External Relations, Network of Ukraine