GOP needs stiffer back on Ukraine

How to make the case to right wing Republicans that the United States must stay the course in Ukraine.

Formerly hawkish Republicans, the isolationists in the GOP are now ready to hand that existentially challenged country to Vladimir Putin. That would be a colossal strategic mistake.

First off, they should know that appeasement never works when dealing with megalomaniacal dictators. History informs us: NEVER.

Second, let’s talk a language that pro-business Republicans should understand – return on investment (ROI). The payoff on our investment of about $40 billion per year – less than 5% of our annual defense budget – is beyond calculation. One recent estimate of U.S. support for Ukraine was $73 billion since Putin invaded his neighbor in early 2022. Here are some of the dividends on that commitment:

  • We obviously would pay a lot to put a hard stop on Putin’s ambition to reestablish the Soviet Empire. Ukraine’s valiant defense of its country does not constitute victory, but it has resulted in stalemate. Even though Ukraine’s summer counter-offensive failed to achieve breakout, Russian troops are mostly on the defensive. They are in trenches, ala WWI, behind a broad swath of land mines in the eastern lands Russia claimed in the initial invasion. It never reached their goal of taking Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
  • Russia’s military strength has been depleted. What would we pay to cause that to happen? Russia has lost key ships, and the rest of its navy has been neutralized by long-range attacks. The Black Sea and Sea of Azov have been reopened to grain shipment. Russia has lost control of the sea. It will lose control of the air when Ukrainian pilots are flying U.S. F-16s.
  • Of late, Ukraine has struck military and infrastructure assets deep in Russia.
  • Russia’s indiscriminate, criminal bombing of citizens and cities has not softened as intended the resolve of the attacked democratic citizens. Those assaults have served to harden the Ukrainian citizenry against further Russian occupation. The Allies must take out Iranian and Russian drone production and ramp up our drone capacity. They are the new face of warfare.
  • On our end, we have let our guard down in terms of available armaments. It has become crystal clear that we need to rebuild our supplies of ships, long-range missiles, smart artillery shells, fighter planes and drones. Further, we need to rebuild our manufacturing capacity for the production of modern weaponry. It will take some time retool our supply chains, but we and our NATO allies must sharply ramp up our weapons production. Our combined economies far outweigh Russia’s. We need to win the table stakes game, so unprovoked attacks are not even considered by our enemies. Even potential enemies, like China and Iran.
  • What would we pay to solidify NATO to keep Pax Americana in place for another generation? Finland has joined NATO; Sweden will follow — exactly the opposite outcome Putin wanted to achieve when he used energy blackmail against the European Union. Putin wants to use Ukraine like he had used Belarus – as a launching pad for his missiles. The stalemate in Ukraine, while not the optimum outcome, still serves as a buffer to more Russian aggression.
  • Putin has retained his dictatorship, despite the strategic blunder he made with his barbaric invasion. He is running for reelection, which he will never lose, because Russia’s elections really are rigged. Nonetheless, his grip on power has weakened. He assassinated Yevgeny Prigozhin, his long-time ally who made a dash to Moscow with his Wagner Group. Other Russian oligarchs have not outrightly opposed Putin, but most must have monster reservations from the damage he has done to their country. Conscriptions and body bags going home to mothers are political quicksand.
  • The collective Western response to naked aggression has to loom large in the mind of Xi Jinping, China’s leader. His country has fared so well in the economic competition in the world. It has become the second largest economy by exporting to the U.S., Europe and the rest of the world. Why abandon that economic strategy to adopt a military strategy in Taiwan? It has backfired in Russia.

Despite all the above “returns” on the Ukrainian investment, the right-wing of the Republican Party have opposed, or equivocated, on further funding of Ukraine defense. They have linked the Ukrainian historic defense of democracy with our southern border strategy and supplies for Israel. They are separate issues.

There are pivotal moments in history when Americans need to band together to prevent aggression that could spread to our shores. Defeating Putin in Ukraine is one of those turning points in human history.

John Torinus

Captain, USMC Artillery, Retired

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