November marks nine months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. The fighting is taking place more than 5,000 miles from Fort Worth and doesn’t affect our day-to-day lives. Why should we invest in its outcome?
Up to this point, our government has been generous in its military support of Ukraine. Not surprisingly, many Americans are beginning to question our “blank check” approach.
In fact, a recent poll found that 48% of Republicans believe that the United States has been sending too much aid to Kiev. Our federal government will spend well over $1 trillion more than it brings in this year. One could reasonably say that we don’t have enough resources to take care of ourselves, let alone another country.
It is also the case that our support for Ukraine is depleting our stockpiles of weapons. Having fewer available artillery shells, for example, would leave us more vulnerable in the case of an attack.
Furthermore, the Ukrainian government has not been a model of democratic transparency. In 2021, Kiev ranked 122 out of 180 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index. Why should we spend so much money on a country that does not have a track record of financial integrity?
Though conservatives are right to call for an evaluation of our government’s support of Ukraine, we should not waver in our military assistance. We must not downplay the risk that Russia poses to us and the rest of the Western world.
According to Freedom House, which advocates for democracy and human rights, international political freedom has declined every year since 2006. Allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex Ukraine would extend the reach of an already corrupt government. A Russian victory might invite other countries to seize sovereign territory by force. Consider China’s threats to “reunify” with Taiwan.
There are other reasons for staying the course no matter how long the war lasts.
Notwithstanding the loss of lives and grave humanitarian toll, the course of the war has demonstrated to international governments that American weapons are the world’s most advanced. This development will improve our standing with Asian countries such as Pakistan and India and generate contracts for American arms manufacturers, including potentially Lockheed-Martin here in Fort Worth.
We committed to protect Ukraine when we signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. In it, Russia, Britain, and the United States agreed to honor Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for the demolition of Ukraine’s large nuclear arsenal. We should stand by our word, or it won’t be worth much in the future.
Finally, while financially expensive, this war is not costing American lives. And it is working. We are steadily eroding Russia’s conventional military capability.
Republicans in Congress can bolster support for Ukraine funding by establishing oversight of how the money is spent. The creation of an American watchdog to verify battlefield distribution of weaponry would be smart. We should also insist on tying future support to the establishment of substantive anti-corruption systems in Kiev.
The American people deserve a strategic plan that defines the scope of anticipated spending. Congress will have an opportunity to develop those when it approves the next federal budget.
Since Putin’s only chance of victory is an isolated Ukraine, he is banking that the prolonged war will weaken our resolve. But the situation is more taxing on Russians than it is on Americans, and it is weakening Putin’s standing at home. How long can he stay in power when his war has cost the lives of an estimated 100,000 Russian soldiers?
Much is at stake: the protection of Eastern European nuclear facilities, the cost of energy around the world, the grain supply to developing countries, the sovereignty of Ukraine’s borders, and most importantly, the Western push against dictators who care nothing about human rights.
We should resolve to stand firmly with Ukraine until the end of this awful war.
Brian Byrd, a former City Council member, is a physician in Fort Worth.