Tough Issue #3

Tough Issue #3

Military Assistance for Ukraine /   Promoting Peace

In war, all choices are imperfect, risk-filled, and thus difficult. That is how it has been since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago. The situation and the choices Ukraine, America, and their allies confront today indeed are tough.

Basics of Helping Ukraine While Seeking Peace

What the issue is: Whether the United States should devote more of its financial and military resources, risking escalation of the war, to help Ukraine defeat Russia and promote peace.

Why this issue is difficult: This issue is controversial from an economic, security, and political perspective. Economically, our country has finite numbers of tanks, artillery, and weapons in stock, and it costs a great deal of money to build more for use by Ukraine. As for our own national security, arguments can be made both that helping Ukraine today protects the U.S. from Russian aggression later, or that it could deplete our resources while enflaming Russia, a major nuclear power, and potentially start World War III. Politically, the party not in the White House (today, the Republicans), is tempted to oppose everything the President supports, including commitment to Ukraine, especially when the U.S. has its own problems.

Where the issue stands today: At first, the United States announced sanctions, then stricter sanctions. We provided military equipment, then more and more military equipment. Nevertheless, Russia quickly captured land and cities, although Ukraine has won back part of what was annexed. Ukraine has received strong and growing Western support as the year has unfolded, as France, Germany, Britain, and other democracies view the war as an unjust invasion by a dangerous, unprovoked mutual enemy.

Both Ukraine and Russia claim they are open to negotiations, but each sends signals that any resolution must be on its own terms—which terms are mutually exclusive. So, Vladimir Putin is ordering a Russian missile campaign on Ukrainian cities, including Kiev, the capital, and is attempting to bomb, starve, and freeze the nation’s citizens until their government gives up. Russia has called up hundreds of thousands of additional soldiers and is preparing for an offensive in the late winter or spring.

Back in Washington, D.C., the Senate, including Republicans, has expressed strong support for Ukraine. In the House of Representatives, some are speaking in opposition to further aid.

For our prior blog posts focused on the war in Ukraine, see Ukraine and the Need for Reconciliation (March 1, 2022); Lessons from War (March 8, 2022); Never Means Never (April 12, 2022); and Other than That, Mr. Putin, How’s the War? (May 24, 2022).

Proposed Resolutions

To resolve complex and troubling international power struggles that implicate American national security, we need economic and military strength, along with political courage and unity. Then and only then can we achieve peace through diplomacy rather than destruction.

Principles involved: Law and justice, freedom, limited government, and protecting the vulnerable each impact America’s decision making regarding defense assistance to Ukraine. We also need federal leaders who exemplify the principles of peace, respect, service, and understanding, all as this blog wrote in Foreign Relations: Applying Principles (Sept. 14, 2021); and National Defense: Applying Principles to Issues (June 22, 2021).

Solutions: Frederick the Great, a King of Prussia during the eighteenth century, said that “diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments.” Applying that statement today demands consensus that Ukraine cannot negotiate for peace without sufficient weapons to win the current war.

One prerequisite to America’s ability to meet Ukraine’s need is that our own military storehouses must be full to excess with technologically superior arms. Our defense budgets need strengthening, not cuts.

Next, our country learned in World Wars I and II that things only get worse if America does not help its friends stop unprovoked attacks by foreign powers quickly, rather than hoping the bloodshed can be contained abroad without our involvement. Accordingly, the U.S. (along with other Western nations) must continue to fund Ukraine’s economy and provide more military support. We should donate tanks, armored vehicles, Patriot defense missiles, drones, and whatever else Ukraine needs.

If Ukraine defeats Russia, these expenditures will be a bargain in America’s overall efforts to deter Russia. Moreover, we must remember that Russia—especially Mr. Putin—ultimately wants to outshine America, outlast democracy, and overcome the West as the dominant influence in the world. As it has been for centuries, Ukraine is the unfortunate battleground in that bigger conflict. Stymying Russia in Ukraine is the best way to deny Russia’s desire for dominance.

Lastly, there must be stronger sanctions that the West has yet to impose on Russia, Mr. Putin, and their backers. It is difficult to understand what we are holding back, and why. Have the Russian banks truly been excluded from international relationships? Have oligarchs really had their lifestyles impeded? Have sanctions actually been enforced to their fullest extent? We think not, largely because America and others repeatedly threaten to impose “new, firmer” sanctions. As with real “ammo,” Principle Based Politics does not understand why the West is withholding any economic action to help Ukraine and ultimately bring an end to the war, even if doing so could bruise our own economies in the meantime.

As we did in the Second World War, it appears that America should temporarily escalate the war in Ukraine in order to encourage peace in the long run.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 13:32h, 21 February

    Agree 100 percent. The Soviet Union toppled because of US resolve and sanctions. It is even more true today.

  • Killion
    Posted at 16:47h, 21 February

    I also agree, but I am equally concerned about the neo axis of evil — the countries that are committed today to destoying us and our allies. This includes Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. One lesson from Ukraine is that we must help arm our allies before they are attacted by countries governed by malicious dictators. We have entered anew a period where renegade countries must be deterred by a “balance of terror” that involes nuclear and conventional weapons. . The best example of this is Taiwan. The only thing that may stop China from invading Taiwan is Taiwan’s ability to strick back. We can’t wait to contribute to Taiwan’s national defense. We hear a lot about supposed “existential” threats. The most existential and immediate of all is the threat to world peace and democracy from the neo axis of evil. This is going to cost money, and a lot of it.

    • Admin
      Posted at 16:54h, 21 February

      Excellent points, Bill. I completely agree.

  • -Rick
    Posted at 17:04h, 21 February

    Either way we (USA) go from here will cost lives and much more money and this Administration will have to take ownership for that. It was going to be an awful decision either way. Same thing with the Iraq war, we committed to going in and cost thousands of soldiers lives and trillions of dollars. That administration has to own that decision as well. Like my grandfather always said, “We need to help our neighbors, but our home will be gone if we don’t care of it too……”

    • Admin
      Posted at 17:23h, 21 February

      No easy decisions in war, as said in the post. Appreciate your comment.