In a typically divided Washington D.C., there has been one unique point of bipartisan consensus: supporting Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Congress has approved over $54 billion in funds and weapons supplies to Ukraine. However, as the war drags on, there are concerns about the future of congressional support, with some politicians on both sides of the aisle expressing skepticism about continuing to support the Ukrainian war effort. While it is understandable for politicians to feel a level of fatigue and uncertainty about the conflict, they must continue to support Ukraine and use the power of the U.S. government to support democracy abroad while also countering Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
On Oct. 24, the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter to President Joe Biden expressing concerns over the president’s strategy in Ukraine. The letter called for the U.S. to engage in direct negotiations with Putin, saying, “we urge you to pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire.” When word of this letter leaked, it immediately sparked backlash from Ukrainian officials and raised concerns about a possible rift between Biden and congressional Democrats. After receiving flak over the release of the letter, the Progressive Caucus retracted it and claimed it was a draft from July that was accidentally released and does not reflect the current views of the Caucus.
Despite this retraction, the letter’s release underscores possible divisions in Congress about continued financial and tactical support of the war in Ukraine. Recently, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., warned that Republicans will not write a “blank check” to Ukraine if they win back the House majority in November. Polling has shown that many Republican voters do not support continuing financial aid to Ukraine.
As the war drags on into its eighth month, there is a growing sense of conflict fatigue or worry that this is simply a war of attrition. However, this situation is far too important for the United States to step back, as there are both moral and strategic issues at stake.
The war in Ukraine is a clear proxy war between the West and Putin, who has long lamented the fall of the USSR. If the United States and the international community fail to continue to stand up to Putin at this critical moment, it may encourage further encroachment on other sovereign countries, such as Moldova.
There is also a moral argument for continuing to support Ukraine. The struggle of the Ukrainian people is a struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination against a ruthless dictator. As a country that stands for these ideals, we should advance them in other countries.
This is not to say that the United States should refuse to support diplomatic endeavors. A diplomatic solution is always the goal.
Even if a deal was brokered, it is questionable whether Russia would honor a diplomatic solution. This fact has been evident over the past few months with continued issues over the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This initiative was a deal brokered by the United Nations between Russia and Ukraine to allow for shipments of grain to leave Ukraine. Together, Ukraine and Russia produce a third of the world’s wheat supply and the conflict has contributed to a global food security crisis, especially in many African countries.
While the Black Sea agreement was initially successful in allowing grain shipments to leave Ukraine, Russia complicated it by pulling out of it and then re-entering, which has led to international condemnation and concerns about higher food prices and more global food shortages. Although it is good that Russia has re-entered the program, its wavering on this issue demonstrates that the international community needs to be clear-eyed about who they are dealing with when engaging in diplomatic conversations.
One of the Progressive Caucus’s letter’s key arguments was that the United States should be a prominent player in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. It would be wrong, however, for the United States to center itself in the negotiations. As a country with a history of imperial conquests, the United States must work to be better and recognize that the Ukrainians deserve the final say in what occurs. The negotiations should be spearheaded by the Ukrainian government to ensure that they have autonomy over the diplomatic process and the future of their country.
The United States also has an important role in reassuring the international community. If the United States reduces its support for Ukraine, this will put more pressure on our allies in Europe. If the United States wants to remain at the forefront of democracy on the world stage, we must continue to be a leader on this issue.
It is also important to consider the current state of the conflict. Although the war is not over, Ukraine has continued to put up a valiant fight and has strained Russian resources. The required conscription of many men in Russia led to hundreds of thousands of men fleeing the country to avoid being sent to the front lines. Ukraine has continued to fight with courage against the Russians and has had some important successes recently. These successes include regaining territory taken by Russia in the early days of the war and destroying Russian equipment. Ending U.S. support at a time when Ukraine is succeeding is the wrong decision.
From the start of the conflict, it has been evident how strong and resilient the Ukrainian people are. They love their homeland and would do anything to protect it. The United States must use its position as a world leader to ensure a safer and more just future by continuing our support for Ukraine. Through continued financial support from Congress, the U.S. can help ensure that the Ukrainian people have the support needed to continue to fight for their homeland and stop Putin in his tracks.
Isabelle Schindler is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.