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Orest Deychakiwsky

Congressional funding for Ukraine:  A moral and geopolitical imperative Part I

 

Orginally published in The Ukrainian Weekly

Rarely has there been such a confluence of American values and interests as there currently exists in Ukraine. For the sake of the country and the larger geopolitical order, nothing is more immediate than Congressio­nal passage of a robust Ukraine aid package – ideally, the $61 billion in supplemental funding in the Biden Administra­tion’s request, if not more. A funding appropriation of that size would ensure Ukraine has enough military and other support to get it through the 2024 U.S. elections, which could be especially politically fraught if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee.

From both a human and policy perspective, providing Ukraine with the assistance it needs should be a no-brainer, whether as part of a larger national security aid package linking it with Israel and other national security issues or as stand-alone legislation. It is an evolving, difficult and messy process. At present, that funding is linked to border security, a particularly controversial issue between Democrats and Republi­cans. I remain cautiously optimistic that, in the end, compromises can be forged that will pave the way for the approval of crucial assistance for Ukraine.

One way or another, Congress must act and all of us must do our part in encouraging Congress to act as expeditiously as possible. Not providing Ukraine with sufficient military and economic resources to defend itself – something that’s simply not possible without the U.S. –would be an unmitigated disaster for Ukraine, for the European security order and, indeed, for global stability. A vote against Ukraine aid would be a vote for tyranny, terrorism and Russian Presi­dent Vladimir Putin. It would in effect be a sanction for evil, even if that were not the intent.

This is a historic moment. Congress is facing a historic opportunity. I sense that most of the legislators opposing Ukraine support are doing so not for policy reasons, but largely for political reasons. The case for assisting Ukraine, especially militarily, but also with economic and humanitarian aid, is both morally justified and strategically wise. It is both right and smart.

Most wars have some degree of moral ambiguity, but the case for Ukraine is crystal clear. Moscow’s war is totally unprovoked, unjustified and unnecessary. It is evil. Russia violates international law with impunity. Ukraine, a democracy that has freely chosen to integrate with the trans-Atlantic community of nations, did absolutely nothing to deserve this. It is simply defending itself. It’s about survival.

Autocratic, kleptocratic bully Putin and his minions have nothing but contempt for freedom and democracy. Americans, like most civilized people, disdain bullies who invade peaceful countries and perpetrate extreme violence against innocent civilians to achieve their delusional imperial goals. America has a long history of supporting freedom and democracy – principles that lie at the heart of our nation.

Congress and the American people – all of us – must not lose sight of the war’s human dimension. Putin’s genocidal, immoral, criminal aggression has led to immense human suffering and dislocation, including murder, torture, rape, the abduction of children, the uprooting of families and the devastation of property. The staggering savagery of Russian actions in Ukraine during the past 22 months of the full-scale invasion shocked the civilized world’s conscience. Russian aggression has not disappeared. Russian missile attacks on innocent civilians remain a daily occurrence. And then, there is the behavior of Russian authorities in the land that they’ve taken.

Sometimes forgotten are the estimated 4-6 million Ukrainians remaining in Russia-occupied territories who are subjected to brutal repression and a wholesale denial of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. This includes egregious violations of religious rights. It is no accident that Evan­ge­lical Protestant Christians have been singled out, as they are perceived by Moscow to be the most pro-Western. It appears as if conservative Christian Republi­can legislators are increasingly taking note of this dire picture, despite Kremlin propaganda parroted by “useful idiots” in this country peddling the falsehood that Ukraine, not Russia, is violating religious rights.

Moscow’s genocidal policies aim to eradicate not only Ukrainian statehood but also its national identity. This is patently manifested in the occupied territories, where the Ukrainian language and culture, or any pro-Ukrainian expressions, are harshly suppressed. Russification is the norm, whether through the indoctrination of Ukrainian kids, by denying the use of the Ukrainian language or learning its history, by compelling Ukrainians to become Russian citizens (passportization), or through the destruction and theft of Ukrainian cultural treasures.

The plight of Ukrainians who continue to suffer under Russian occupation – many since 2014 – should bolster the argument that Ukrainian victory be defined by the complete liberation of all occupied Ukrainian territory. This means the removal of all Russian forces from Ukraine.

Supporting Ukraine is consistent with the values and principles we Americans espouse – freedom, sovereignty, democracy, respect for human life and human rights. A vote for Ukraine is a vote for human dignity, which Russia profoundly disregards.

But one might ask, what about America’s core geopolitical interests – what’s at stake there? Nothing less than the American-led rules-based international order. Since the end of World War II, until February 24, 2022, this international architecture provided an unprecedented level of peace, security and prosperity in Europe. It hasn’t been a perfect peace by any means, as the tragic Balkan wars of the 1990s, Moscow’s war against Chechnya in the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, or Russia’s 2014 initial invasion of Ukraine sadly illustrate. But if one looks at Europe’s bloody history going back many centuries (admittedly, a low bar), there’s no question that post-war Europe enjoyed an unusual period of relative peace and security.

Keep in mind that the 20th century’s two world wars were by far the two most devastating wars in human history. They were global wars that originated in Europe. In many respects, Ukraine was at the center of and, indeed, central to these wars. If it were not for American leadership in ensuring this post-war rules-based order, not only Europe, but the entire world would be a far more dangerous place.

 

Orest Deychakiwsky may be reached at orestdeychak@gmail.com.