Will the GOP Abandon Ukraine?

U.S. soldiers from the Army’s 1st Raider Brigade gather at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany July 13.


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President Biden says he will support Ukraine ‘as long as necessary’, but if the GOP reclaims the House of Representatives in November, will they allow him? A fatalistic view has developed among some Republicans that the answer will be no.

These fears stem from the notion that isolationism is increasing within the GOP. 57 Republicans in the House of Representatives – and 11 Senators – voted against the Ukraine aid package in May. The Heritage Foundation also opposed it, claiming it would distract from more important priorities like curbing inflation and rising crime.

The rub is that there is little evidence that Republican voters are isolationist or opposed to helping Ukraine. According to a May Pew Research poll, 71% of Americans and 68% of Republicans support the delivery of military equipment and weapons to Kyiv. Sixty-four percent of Americans and 60 percent of Republicans support stationing US forces in North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries near Ukraine. Those numbers stand up despite voter concerns about state-building and so-called never-ending wars.

The GOP can – and should – address these concerns by taking a few steps. First, it should ensure that aid is well-targeted and not open-ended. The Biden administration’s slow decision-making and over-cautiousness have rightfully raised concerns that the US is sending just enough military aid to foster a stalemate. The President has invested US prestige in the conflict, and Republicans should be concerned if the administration doesn’t seek a decisive victory. With a new majority, House Republicans would be well placed to exercise vigorous scrutiny. Press the secretaries of state and defense for their strategy – and insist they come to Capitol Hill often to defend it.

The GOP should not be giving the Biden administration a blank check. Republicans should seek detailed accounting of government spending. Just as Congress in President Bush’s second term tied aid to the Iraq war to progress toward benchmarks, Republicans can insist on similar measures to ensure accountability and transparency. Although it is Ukraine and not the US that is waging this war, Congress can condition future dollars on a strategy that strengthens US objectives in Europe.

But the GOP also needs to remember why supporting Ukraine is important. Otherwise, several of its longstanding strategic goals could be thwarted.

Take NATO. For years, Republican governments have urged our European allies to increase their defense commitments. Since February’s Russian invasion, many of them — Germany in particular — have made impressive pledges to do so. But the Germans and others sometimes seem ambivalent. It is not inconceivable that a US withdrawal would give them an excuse to shrink from the task. Staying in the fight helps us carry the Europeans with us and ensure their defense commitments become a reality.

A failure of US military aid would also be devastating to Ukrainian troops in the field and would likely forestall an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south. A halt to US aid could even force Ukraine to the negotiating table prematurely, further emboldening Russian adventurism in Europe. If it did, it would limit Washington’s ability to cross over to Asia and face a growing threat from China. Successfully redirecting America’s defense spending and attention to Asia requires a stable Europe.

Republicans should be opposed to perpetual commitments, subsidies to broken international organizations, and nation-building funding. But there is still plenty of room to cut aid to Ukraine for GOP policies that hold the Biden administration to account while strengthening US strategic goals in Europe and Asia.

Mr. Allen served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counter-Proliferation Strategies (2007-09) and as Major Staff Director of the House Intelligence Committee (2011-13).

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Alley Einstein

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