Reducing support for Kyiv puts the entire free world at risk
December 04, 2023
ODESA, Ukraine — Western allies who are considering reducing their aid to Ukraine are putting the country at risk of defeat or being forced into a bad peace deal with Russia. This slow abandonment is not only immoral, it will almost certainly encourage Russia to launch further military incursions, within and beyond Ukraine, at the expense of the West’s security interests.
The possibility of declining aid comes amid an apparent stalemate between Moscow and Kyiv. A year has passed since Ukraine last liberated any significant swathes of territory, and, while Russian gains during this period have been meagre at best, the Ukrainians’ much-anticipated summer counteroffensive also failed to break through enemy lines.
Yet Kyiv has been unexpectedly successful in the Black Sea, despite lacking a navy. Amid barrages of missiles and drones, Russia was forced to relocate its naval forces eastward last month, to safer harbours in eastern Crimea, which functionally ended the blockade of Odesa and allowed grain to once again be exported through the port city, providing a vital boost to the Ukrainian economy.
Yet these limited successes have not assuaged the doubts of some western leaders and their electorates, who feel fatigued and indecisive about providing further aid. While the majority of western citizens and leaders still support Ukraine, opposition has been noticeably rising.
In the United States, where Ukraine has been turned into a partisan wedge, pro-Ukrainian voices still constitute a clear majority in Congress, but a small number of extremist Republicans, some of whom openly support Russia, have recently been able to block new aid commitments. While some funding packages, which have already been approved by Congress and have not yet been fully disbursed, will ensure that military aid continues to reach Kyiv, Republican obstructionism may cause support to dry up in 2024.
Some European countries, such as Germany, are expanding their support in response to American uncertainty, but others are decisively turning away.
In October, Slovakia elected a right-wing government that, upon assuming power, immediately halted aid to Ukraine. Then, just two weeks ago, Dutch voters backed the far-right Party for Freedom, whose leader, Geert Wilders, is virulently anti-Ukrainian. While Wilders must find coalition partners to form a government, and thus must compromise on his policy positions, prospects for future aid remain dim.
In Canada, every major political party claims to support Ukraine — but these commitments can feel like empty rhetoric. According to the recent Fall Economic Statement tabled by Finance
Minister Chrystia Freeland, the Liberal government provided $816 million in Ukrainian military aid during the 2023-24 fiscal year, but is budgeting only $318 million for next year and $197 million for the year after that.
Unless further commitments are provided, Canada will reduce its military aid to Kyiv by 76 per cent over the next two years — a concerning development that opposition parties have not substantially pushed back on.
While Ukraine has fought valiantly and wildly outperformed pre-war expectations, the country remains highly dependent on foreign support. Should weapons stop arriving, there is a good chance that Ukraine’s defences will collapse, permitting a Russian breakthrough.
This would undoubtedly produce millions of new refugees who would destabilize western Ukraine, making it more difficult for Kyiv to defend its territory, and, through mass migration, create additional economic and social pressures throughout Europe.
Without western-supplied air defences, Russia would also be capable of engaging in World War II-style bombing campaigns of Ukrainian population centres, which would be far more destructive than current missile and drone attacks, leading to sharp increases in civilian casualties.
Reduced foreign aid could force Ukraine to sign a peace deal that includes territorial concessions — but this would only allow Russia to catch its breath, rebuild its armies and prepare for future invasions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has, on several occasions, signalled his desire to re-establish the old glories of the Russian Empire and resubjugate Eastern Europe. A Ukrainian defeat, either through a military collapse or a bad peace deal, would only embolden him by showing that expansionist invasions pay off.
The fall of Ukraine could well invite future military conflict in Moldova, the Baltic states and then, eventually, Poland. NATO members would then be faced with direct conflict with an enlarged Russia that would have access to Ukraine’s agricultural and industrial capacities, as well as millions of Ukrainian men who could be forced to fight on Moscow’s behalf.
The costs of abandoning Ukraine are high — and the benefits are marginal, because the amount of military aid currently being provided is much smaller than many realize.
The United States’ contributions, for example, amount to roughly five per cent of the annual American defence budget — and most of that money ends up staying in the U.S. to pay local contractors, acting as a kind of industrial stimulus. The situation is similar in Canada, as our aid to Ukraine has stayed well below one per cent of annual federal expenditures.
These relatively modest investments have already paid off tremendously and, by some estimates, allowed Ukraine to reduce Russia’s military capacity by half. Moscow now finds itself in a position where it must allocate 39 per cent of its entire national budget toward the war, which is obviously unsustainable.
Reducing aid to Ukraine just doesn’t make sense. For the sake of small, short-term savings, the West is jeopardizing an entire nation and myopically gambling away its own long-term security.
Adam Zivo is a freelance writer and weekly columnist at National Post. He is best known for his coverage of the war in Ukraine, as well as for founding and directing LoveisLoveisLove, a Canadian LGBTQ advocacy campaign. Zivo’s work has appeared in the Washington Examiner, Jerusalem Post, Ottawa Citizen, The Diplomat, Xtra Magazine, LGBTQ Nation, IN Magazine, Quillette, and the Daily Hive, among other publications.