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Debate in Congress over the National Security Amendment and America’s Role in the World

The debate in Congress over the National Security Amendment — a spectacularly misnamed piece of legislation given its centrality to U.S. foreign policy — is about more than Ukraine, a new CEPA report shows.

There is no debate among members of Congress about whether Ukraine needs funding: they are well aware of the “munitions famine” occurring among Ukraine’s armed forces under the ongoing Russian assault.

And there is no real debate about who should foot the bill. Even as some lawmakers question whether America’s European allies are paying enough, they should be aware that European spending on Ukraine far exceeds American spending, and that 29 European countries have sent more of their GDP to Ukraine than the United States.

Rather, the arguments on Capitol Hill are about the role America should play in the world and the purpose of its foreign policy.

On one side of the dividing line is a bipartisan coalition that includes the White House and much of the Republican leadership, arguing that the U.S. has an obligation to the world, and indeed to itself, to ensure that Russia is unable to rewrite history and erase an entire people from the map of Europe.

Noting the contribution of so many of America’s allies to the defense of Ukraine, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell summed up the argument this way: “Our partners do not have the luxury of pretending that the world’s most dangerous aggressors are someone else’s problem. And we also.”

On the other side is a section of the American right that increasingly openly sees the world in very different terms.

Rejecting earlier arguments about the cost of supporting Ukraine, they now openly question the wisdom. As the amendment moved toward passage, Senator J. D. Vance called the effort to protect Ukraine “a new crusade” and “a new thing that American taxpayers must fund and must fund indefinitely.”

Senator Tommy Tuberville went further, calling Ukraine supporters “warmongers” and concluding that “Vladimir Putin wants out of this.” The bill passed 70-29 on February 13 with 22 Republicans supporting.

On one side of this divide is the vision of a structured, institutionalized American foreign policy that plays a central role in maintaining global peace and security.

At the heart of this vision is the belief that the metastases of conflict around the world are making America and Americans less safe and less prosperous.

On the other is a vision of a transactional American foreign policy in which external entanglements limit the country’s ability to pursue its immediate interests and in which, as Donald Trump recently suggested, America defends itself best when it defends others least.

This is a debate that the United States, as a democracy, must have. That debate is a central issue in this year’s US presidential election and even in the Republican primary, where former UN ambassador Nikki Haley has placed herself firmly in the institutionalist camp.

However, this is not a debate the US can afford to postpone until after the election, as failure to act now in support of Ukraine risks making the shift to a transactional foreign policy a foregone conclusion.

As a major new study by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) makes clear, Russian aggression is not a passing phenomenon. Over the past three decades, Russia’s post-Soviet leadership has consistently concluded that it must maintain military dominance in its former empire, as well as the ability to control political, economic, and even social developments in its former vassals.

To achieve this dominance, Russian leaders have also concluded that undermining the structures of American and European power in the world—ranging from NATO and transatlantic solidarity to the rules of the global trade and financial systems—is a critical Russian national security interest.

Russia’s war against Ukraine, and more broadly against the West, is not a misguided adventure that the Kremlin has recklessly embarked on or can easily be dissuaded from. The militarized pursuit of regional dominance and global collapse is, according to Moscow, the logical and indeed the only way to protect Kremlin-defined national interests.

No agreed accommodation in Ukraine will change this calculation. And in one form or another, the same calculus is likely to outlive the rule of Vladimir Putin.

In the near to medium term, then, American leaders of both parties face a stark choice: capitulate to Russia and bear the enormous costs of further war and unrest, or contain Russia and restore deterrence and stability.

Given the situation on the front line, it is no exaggeration to say that the moment to make a decision is now.

Ukraine is paying a high and growing price to protect both its own existence and America’s security. But Ukraine’s resilience, while remarkable, is not limitless.

While Washington wavers, Moscow’s war economy remains in high gear, flooding the front lines with men and equipment and bombing Ukrainian civilians with increasing ferocity. According to various estimates, Russia has devoted 6%-8% of its GDP — and about 40% of its budget — to the military effort.

U.S. aid to Ukraine, by contrast, makes up just 0.3 percent of U.S. GDP and less than 6 percent of total U.S. defense spending.

Ukraine cannot hold the line without greater American support — and it should not. With every Ukrainian casualty, American power weakens. With every square kilometer of Ukrainian territory lost, the cost of restoring peace and security increases manifold.

China, Iran, Venezuela and other rivals are watching, believing that an America that does not do what it should in the heart of Europe is vulnerable around the world. And as America’s adversaries seek to exploit these perceived vulnerabilities, the resulting conflicts will only send more refugees to the southern border.

For all these reasons, containing the Russian threat—and preventing it from metastasizing into a global conflagration—must begin in Ukraine.

As the CEPA study explains, the costs of containing Russia after ceding territory in Ukraine would be prohibitively high. A resounding Ukrainian victory, by contrast, flips the script, disrupting Russia’s strategy, challenging the ambitions of China and Iran, and restoring confidence in US and NATO deterrence.

All of these interests can be achieved, but only if America acts now.

2024-02-15 18:41:38
#capitulation #Ukraine #lead #war #big

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