Let's talk about support for Ukraine


If you’re rooting for Vladimir Putin to win the war in Ukraine, I think you’re morally inverted. If you’re neutral about who wins the war in Ukraine, I think you’re far too blasé about the global consequences of an unchecked evil brute inflicting human misery on a mass scale in the name of a mad dream of restoring lost glory. But if you think there ought to be a limit to what the U.S. government is willing to do to ensure Ukraine wins the war . . . eh, that just seems like a concession to reality and common sense.

Despite the beliefs of many members of Congress, we’re not made of money. Less-interventionist voices such as my colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty have a point that, simply by reasons of geography and history, Ukraine will always be more important to Moscow than it is to Washington. We have some ability to influence foreign affairs — probably more than any other country — but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that we can control the outcome of what has become a dreadfully bloody war.

This morning, the Washington Post released the results of a new survey indicating that, “As the conflict drags into winter, Americans are divided over whether Washington should push Ukraine to reach a negotiated peace as soon as possible.”

Keep in mind that just because Washington wants to reach a negotiated peace deal doesn’t mean that the Ukrainians or Vladimir Putin want to reach a negotiated peace deal. The Ukrainians still sound like they’re willing to fight to the last man, and Putin sounds like he’s willing to fight to the last conscript. What the American public or the Biden administration wants may not be all that relevant for a while.

From the Post:

While support among the American public for assistance to Ukraine remains robust, Republican backing for aid to Ukraine has slipped since the spring, with 55 percent of Republicans saying they support sending military aid, compared with 68 percent in July and 80 percent in March. Half of Republicans favored providing economic assistance to Ukraine last month, compared with roughly three-quarters in March, according to the Chicago Council’s findings.

The United States announced its latest tranche of military aid to Ukraine last month — the 25th since August 2021. The $400 million package includes additional arms, munitions and equipment, the Defense Department said, and brings total U.S. military assistance to Ukraine to nearly $20 billion since President Biden took office. . . .

With Russia’s war in Ukraine in its 10th month, and no end in sight, Americans are split over whether Washington should urge Ukraine to reach a peace settlement with Russia imminently, the survey found. A plurality — 40 percent — said the United States should continue its current levels of support to Ukraine indefinitely. Fifty-three percent of Democrats favor this approach. In July, however, 58 percent of American respondents said the United States should help Ukraine for as long as it takes, even if that meant higher gas and food prices for American consumers. Now, 47 percent say Washington should push Kyiv to reach a peace settlement soon.

A plurality of Republicans, however, would opt to gradually withdraw U.S. support from Ukraine. Overall, 29 percent of respondents hold this view, while about a quarter said the United States and its allies should intervene militarily to help Ukraine win the war quickly.

Keep in mind, we’ve sent a lot of munitions and military equipment to Ukraine:

Raytheon’s chief executive, Greg Hayes, said that the war’s consumption rates so far have vastly outstripped industrial capacity. Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, donation efforts have used up five years of Javelin production and 13 years of production for portable anti-aircraft Stinger systems, he said.

That echoes a remark from a Democratic member of Congress a few days ago:

‘I think we all have been so impressed by the Ukrainians and you’ve got to back them as much as possible,’ said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a former DoD and CIA official. ‘But I knocked on 80,000 doors and Ukraine came up in my election in central Michigan. People are like, “I really support them and I want them to succeed, but when do we stop giving billions of dollars and is there an endgame?”’

Those central-Michigan taxpayers aren’t pro-Putin, they aren’t isolationist, and they aren’t indifferent to the suffering of the Ukrainians or to the threat that Putin presents. I think those voters recognize that there’s been a contradiction at the heart of the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy from the beginning: We absolutely don’t want to get sucked in as a combatant, but we also absolutely don’t want Russia to profit from its naked aggression. Over time, the tension between those two goals turns into friction.

Remember that just two months ago, President Biden, out of the blue at Democratic fundraiser, warned that the world “faced the prospect of Armageddon” because of the potential Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine . . . but then he never elaborated on that, and everyone just shrugged and concluded it was grandpa getting confused. Some days, helping Ukraine seems like the administration’s top foreign-policy priority, but then the war disappears from the headlines for long stretches. On the record, Biden backs Volodymyr Zelensky 100 percent; off the record, Biden loses his temper with Zelensky, and White House officials tell the New York Times’ Tom Friedman that the administration doesn’t trust Zelensky.

War with Russia doesn’t seem like the kind of endeavor that can be done halfway.

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