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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

OPINION:

President Biden’s only praiseworthy action in the realms of national security and foreign policy has been his support for Ukraine in its resistance to Russia’s invasion.

It is praiseworthy because, with our help, the Ukrainians have both demonstrated the incompetence of Russia’s army and damaged it significantly, thus reducing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to Western Europe. So far, our aid — which dwarfs the contributions of other nations — amounts to about $60 billion.


Mr. Biden’s support for Ukraine is being attacked from both sides of the political equation.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus released a letter calling on Mr. Biden to increase pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to open talks with Russia and to open direct talks between Washington and Moscow. The effect of that letter is seen in remarks by some senior Biden advisers such as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, who said that Ukraine can’t win and should negotiate with Russia during the winter lull in fighting. The White House quickly backed away from Gen. Milley’s statement, but the damage was done.

In September, former President Donald Trump offered to lead a team to negotiate a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine. Mr. Biden was happy to ignore the offer.

Of greater concern: In mid-October, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Democrat, said he wanted to limit U.S. aid to Ukraine. “I think people are going to be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.”

Mr. McCarthy has a point. There is corruption in Ukraine that may limit the aid’s effectiveness. But the answer is not to set artificial limits on our shipments of weapons Ukraine needs. If Mr. McCarthy wants a check on how the Ukrainians are using our weapons and money, he should insist on establishing a special inspector general to do it.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has embarrassed several presidents and the Afghan government with its reports of the ineffectiveness of our efforts. The most recent SIGAR report exposed that Mr. Biden sent a gift of $1.1 billion to the Taliban after his disastrous August 2021 withdrawal.

Worse yet, a streak of isolationism has appeared on the right. In November, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, told a rally for Mr. Trump that if Republicans win the House majority, they would cut off aid to Ukraine. She said, “Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine. Our country comes first.”

The occasionally clownish Ms. Greene’s frequent statements prove that she is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. For example, in February, she was upset with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol Police. She accused them of being Mrs. Pelosi’s “gazpacho police spying on members of Congress,” confusing the tasty Spanish soup with the Gestapo, Hitler’s infamous secret police.  

Unless other Republicans join in her isolationist foolishness, we can safely ignore Ms. Greene. We cannot ignore what is going on in Ukraine, Moscow and Poland.

When a missile fired from Ukraine hit a Polish border town and killed two people on Nov. 15, we initially feared a Russian escalation against NATO. When it proved to be an errant missile fired by Ukraine in defense of a wave of Russian missile attacks, that tension evaporated. The concern remains that opponents of aid to Ukraine will use the incident as an excuse to reduce our aid.

Mr. Putin declared Kherson part of Russia in September, but now his forces have been thrown out. Russian and Iranian missiles are trying to destroy Ukraine’s energy supplies to freeze the population in winter.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef” for his catering business, is one of Mr. Putin’s closest political allies. He is also the boss of the Wagner Group, the mercenaries who were a major force in Mr. Putin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea. They are accused of many war crimes in Ukraine.

Mr. Prigozhin’s mercenaries are reportedly relied on more and more by Mr. Putin because of the failures of Russia’s army. But mercenaries have to be paid.

Revenues from oil and gas sales reportedly make up the bulk of Russia’s national revenues. Mr. Putin’s action in cutting off gas supplies to Europe has left him with much less money to spend on his war in Ukraine. His threat of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine is repeated too often.

Mr. Putin has not diminished his demands. He is reportedly interested only in a peace agreement that would leave Russia in control of Crimea and much of eastern Ukraine. Mr. Zelenskyy, who has said he wants to negotiate, cannot be interested in peace on those terms. Nor should he be.

Whoever is controlling Mr. Biden’s policy on Ukraine clearly doesn’t understand that any “land for peace” deal would only delay, not deter or defeat, Russia’s attempt to conquer Ukraine. Our investment in Ukraine must continue as long as Mr. Putin’s war does.

James Gilmore, who was Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the Organization of Security Cooperation in Europe, accurately summarized the situation. He told me, “Russia can no longer win on the battlefield in Ukraine, but they can still win on the battlefield of American politics. If neo-isolationists deny or limit aid to Ukraine, a chance to avert a future world war will be lost.”

• Jed Babbin is a national security and foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Times and contributing editor for The American Spectator.


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