The United States Congress should swiftly approve additional military and economic aid to Ukraine at a critical time when the country is on the offensive. Failing to pass assistance would “pull the plug” on the offensive, destabilize Ukraine’s weak economy, and it would send a terrible message to our allies and opponents. One can easily play the tape out: Ukraine might not be defeated, but the conflict could easily tip into a frozen conflict leading to pressure on Kyiv to negotiate with Russia. That would only embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin at a moment when he’s on his back foot, and it could potentially have disastrous consequences for Taiwan as China is closely watching our actions.
The Ukrainian people have shown incredible resilience and Ukraine has had real successes against Putin’s forces daily. Ukraine’s progress on the ground against the invading forces is undeniable, reclaiming several areas all the way to the northeastern border and taking back 2,300 square miles from Russia. It is important to remember that Ukraine has not asked for American soldiers to fight and die for Ukraine. Ukrainians are only asking for the weapons and financial support to be able to fight effectively. Their success, however, is contingent on continued financial support from their allies, especially the United States. Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations and Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023, which included military and financial assistance to Ukraine. This act provided $12.4 billion, covering military training, logistical support, weapons, equipment, and $4.5 billion in economic support funds to Ukraine.
The Biden administration is seeking new funding through a supplemental request. Congress should give Ukraine this assistance.
Let’s be clear, Ukraine needs not only weapons, but it also needs economic assistance to keep the government functioning. This financial aid supports paying the salaries of police, fire fighters, the energy company folks who repair the war damaged power lines, and teacher salaries. The Ukrainian economy suffered more than a 30 percent decline in 2022, and with the mass exodus of people, Ukraine’s tax revenues have gone down significantly. That means Ukraine needs money from the U.S. and others to keep the lights on so that they can continue the fight.
I recently traveled to Ukraine, where I witnessed an era of normalcy amidst adversity. Much of that normalcy is a result of US assistance. Morale is high.
Without continued support, however, the basic functions that have kept society running will soon start to deteriorate, potentially leading to a collapse of the democratically elected government.
Congress rightly has concerns about oversight of the Ukraine aid that we send. But, there are rigorous oversight mechanisms in place under the “Ukraine Oversight Interagency Working Group,” with over 160 officials monitoring 20 federal oversight agencies. Congress is helping this effort with $50 million to date in support of the work of the Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development. Congress could do more by providing funds and authorization for on-the-ground staff from USAID, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense which are already set up and can provide effective oversight.
The issue of food aid cannot be ignored either. The war in Ukraine has meant that a significant amount of food produced by Ukraine has been taken off the market. While this does mean higher food prices for U.S. farmers, the instability and rapid shifts in prices are not desirable for American farmers who seek predictability. Even more importantly, the food price spikes are directly affecting people in poor countries in Asia and Africa that are net importers of food. Large food price spikes lead to riots or even the fall of governments—so-called “food coups.” Is the U.S. ready to deal with the consequences of an ally such as Egypt being overthrown due to food price increases due to the war in Ukraine? Rightly, Congress has provided significant food aid to other parts of the world to bridge the gap caused by reduced agricultural production in Ukraine.
Understandably, many in Congress want Europe to bear a bigger share of the costs of the war. Europe has provided lesser weapons support, but it has provided as much economic assistance as the U.S. European states are also shouldering the burden of housing more than 5.8 million Ukrainian refugees while the U.S. is housing approximately 271,000 Ukrainian refugees.
On its own, Ukraine will run out of weapons, and the morale of the soldiers will plummet. The government will struggle to finance both its operations and the war effort, leading to more Ukrainians leaving the country. If Ukraine loses, then the $113 billion that the U.S. has invested in Ukraine would be lost, too.
A collapse of Ukraine two years after Russia invaded would be extremely dangerous and would encourage China to invade Taiwan. It can be argued that the resistance of Ukraine against Russian has been one of the reasons China has stayed clear of Taiwan, but if Ukraine were to fall, Beijing could easily become emboldened.
Ukraine’s fate depends on Congress acting quickly and being willing to remain engaged in the long haul. No one should lose sight of the fact that for an investment of $113 billion to date, Russia has been dealt a significant blow that reduces its ability to meddle in its near abroad or globally. Ending support now would be disastrous for the United States, Ukraine, our European partners, and our other allies around the world who look to us for leadership and support. Congress must be willing to support Ukraine through thick and thin; after all, the thing that Putin fears the most is a democratic, prosperous, and peaceful Ukraine that is integrated into the West. That reality would send a message to the Russian people that they don’t have to live under the yolk of Putinism forever.
Daniel F. Runde is senior vice president and the William A. Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He is also the author of The American Imperative: Reclaiming Global Leadership Through Soft Power (Bombardier Books, 2023).
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.