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United States must stand with Ukraine

I understand why many Americans would like to find a quick way to end the horrific war Russia unleashed on Ukraine. It is tempting to think we can ignore it and hope it will not affect us down the line. However, whether we like it or not, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has launched the largest war in Europe since World War II and if not stopped now, it will only expand until U.S. allies and U.S. troops are dragged in. I want to prevent that from happening.

Russia is not our friend, nor is Russia neutral toward the United States. Putin, with his roots in the KGB, has identified us as an adversary and actively works to undermine the United States. All the way back in 2005, Vladimir Putin said, “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Obviously, for those countries previously held captive by the Soviet Empire, and now free and independent, the collapse of their Soviet prison was anything but a catastrophe. Putin’s lackey, former Russian President Medvedev, has recently threatened our NATO ally Poland with losing its statehood. Putin likes to repeat the phrase that “Russia’s borders do not end anywhere”. A billboard was recently spotted with Putin’s face and that phrase just before the border crossing with Estonia, another deeply pro-American NATO ally. Maybe this is all bluster, but history shows that we should take it seriously.

Some people on my side of the aisle have suggested that we should deny Ukraine the arms and ammunition they need to defend themselves and push the Ukrainians to negotiate an end to the war. But we already tried that. This was the Obama policy and it failed miserably. Remember, Putin invaded Crimea and parts of the Donbas in 2014. President Obama responded by refusing lethal aid to Ukraine and urging negotiations, effectively locking in Russia’s territorial gains. Far from ending the conflict, this led Putin to conclude that he could get away with invading all of Ukraine, which he did in February 2022. I am very surprised to see some Republicans now urging a return to the dangerously weak and failed Obama policy. That would be a huge mistake. I also want to be clear that I do not wholeheartedly support President Biden’s handling of Russia’s invasion. If the Biden administration had made the decision to send key weapons sooner, the Ukrainians might have been able to take back even more territory.

Both Putin and most Western analysts expected the mighty Russian Army would take Kyiv in days. The Ukrainians shocked the world with their will to defend their homeland. Western support trickled in, with some of our European allies leading the way. Ukraine was then able to take back half of the territory Russia initially captured in its full scale invasion. Today, Ukraine remains in control of roughly 83% of its territory. That is a remarkable success, thanks to the support of Europe and the United States and the fighting spirit of the Ukrainians. The United States has been spending about 5% of our annual U.S. military budget to arm Ukraine and U.S. intelligence believes the war has severely degraded Russia’s military power and its ability to threaten NATO allies. However, Ukraine is now running out of shells. Europe has now committed double the amount of aid to Ukraine in dollar terms as the United States. The United States ranks 15th in aid to Ukraine relative to the size of our economy, with some European allies providing many times more than us. But, Europe’s military production capacity is not as great as ours. In the short term, Europe cannot fill the gap in military assistance if the United States does not chip in.

The front lines have not moved much in months, which has led to the false impression that the situation is stable and ripe for a settlement. Russia has shown no indication that it will settle for less than its stated aim of toppling the freely elected government of Ukraine and either installing a puppet government or occupying Ukraine outright. On the Ukrainian side, after uncovering the massacres at places like Bucha and Irpin after being liberated from Russian occupation, public opinion has swung overwhelming[ly] against ceding any territory to Russia. The Russian occupiers tortured, raped and killed anyone who espouses Ukrainian national identity. As we have been reminded lately, and as I spoke about in the Senate a year ago, Putin ascribes to a twisted Russian nationalist view of history that denies the legitimacy of Ukrainian national identity. In this, he comes from a long line of Russian imperialists that for centuries have tried, and failed, to convince Ukrainians that they are really “little Russians” and not a separate nation. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian children have been abducted and taken to Russia, where they face indoctrination to forget their Ukrainian identity and become Russian. As I have spoken out about, Christian denominations other than Russian Orthodox are persecuted by Russian occupying forces. Evangelical Christians, which are seen as linked to the West, have been disproportionately singled out for torture and repression. We should not urge Ukrainians to accept this fate, nor would they if we did.

It is clear that, with continued Western military aid, Russia is unlikely to make significant territorial gains. But, if Ukraine continues to face a shortage of artillery shells and the lifesaving Patriot Missiles, Ukraine could gradually lose in a painful attritional war. This would mean even more death and suffering, and more genocidal Russian war crimes like we have seen.

Keep in mind that the United States and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum, in which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons inherited from the Soviet Union in return for a guarantee of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia is in violation of that agreement and at least two other treaties with Ukraine. As a signatory, the United States should not look the other way, nor should we simply trust Russia to adhere to any future agreement any longer than it takes to rearm.

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican, represents Iowa. This is an excerpt of a speech he made on the Senate floor.

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