The Arguments Against Aiding Ukraine Still Fall Flat

A HIMARS launches a rocket in the direction of Bakhmut on May 18, 2023 in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine. (Photo by Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images)

Russia’s brutal military assault grinds on, Ukraine perseveres in its counteroffensive, and Congress will soon consider yet another aid package for Ukraine’s defense. Those who oppose that aid make three arguments against it: that there is insufficient oversight of aid, that spending money there takes money from Americans here, and that focusing on European security distracts us from the China threat. These matters have been argued and researched over the course of the war, but it’s useful to assess their merits as the war continues.

Take the first argument, that Ukraine remains a corrupt nation and the support Americans send is not being put to its intended use. Like all nations, and especially democracies formerly under the heavy hand of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has worked to maintain a government that keeps the trust of its people and demonstrates that public officials are bound by law. One consequence of the tragedy of the Russian invasion is that Western scrutiny, and the vigorous information warfare of the Russians, has put intense pressure on the Ukrainian government to have a zero-tolerance policy for corruption. By siding with Ukraine and leading a coalition effort to conduct oversight of the operations, the U.S.-led effort could leave Ukraine not only better able to deter aggression and defend itself, but also to serve as an example of anti-corruption practices. 

The American oversight of the weapons flow is likewise unprecedented in modern warfare. The United States has a strong interest in oversight for several reasons. One, although the war is Ukraine’s, the outcome has significant bearing on U.S. interests. The United States is observing Russian battlefield behavior to continually learn and try to best inform how to assist Ukraine and credibly protect NATO members. Two, because Russia is a top-tier adversary of the United States, the U.S. military is assessing how U.S. weapons, operations, and associated activity fare against the Russians. And the third reason is so that Americans at home can be confident that the weapons produced by U.S. companies and purchased by the government are being used for their intended purpose—destroying Russian targets. Lt. Gen. Tony Aguto, the senior American officer overseeing the effort to disperse weapons, has regular discussions with Ukrainian forces to ensure the U.S is not simply taking the word of a handful of political leaders. For its part, Congress appropriated $41 million to Ukraine oversight last year, and there is now an extensive, whole-of-government operation of more than 160 staffers in 20 federal organizations focused on tracking U.S. assistance to Kyiv. The United States failed to do this during its campaign against Islamists in Afghanistan, and Congress is applying lessons from that mistake.

The second claim holds that the problems at home require the United States to cease its support for Ukraine to spend money domestically. But Americans benefit from security in Europe, and the sooner the Ukrainians can compel the Russians to end their aggression, the better it is for all Americans. The increased cost of everyday items like gas and food stems from several factors, but it is compounded by Russia’s intentional weaponization of global commodities to weaken the United States and Western markets. If Russia is left possessing territory it seized through conquest and is in a better position to launch subsequent campaigns, it will persist in menacing Europe and disrupting markets that affect American families.

Join to continue reading
Get started with a free account or join as a member for unlimited access to all of The Dispatch. Continue ALREADY HAVE AN ACCOUNT? SIGN IN