Political brinkmanship has no business when people are dying 

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The U.S. Congress needs to do the right thing.  

Over the last several weeks, lawmakers had seemingly overcome partisan politics with a proposed aid package to address security concerns along the southern border, continued assistance to Israel and its operations directed at Hamas, and another round of aid (estimated at $60 billion) to support Ukraine’s on-going fight against Russia.  

However, it has become increasingly apparent that this comprehensive package may not come to fruition — at least, not until after the U.S. presidential election. Congress is wrong to sideline national security for intractable partisanship, and in the case of Ukraine, it is ignoring a potential travesty in the making and bringing the world perilously closer to a global conflict. 

Ukraine has been at war with Russia for nearly two years. This unfortunate calamity has resulted in hundreds of thousands of wounded or killed, when tallying the figures on both sides. Russian missile strikes continue to target civilians, and concern persists regarding the security of Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Nevertheless, the gallant effort of Ukraine’s military has been able to inflict extensive damage on Russian forces and their equipment; some estimates show that this has resulted in upwards of 240,000 wounded and up to 50,0000 killed in action.  

One reason stopping Russia in Ukraine is so important is because the Baltic countries, Poland and Romania are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). If Ukraine ends up losing the conflict, Putin’s resolve will most likely strengthen, and his aspirations might focus on territorial expansion westward. The Russian economy is on a long-term war footing, with 40 percent of the budget spent on defense and security. If one or more of these countries is subsequently attacked, the U.S. would be directly pulled into a global conflict. American lives vis-à-vis our service members would be put into harm’s way and many could be wounded or die. 

Europe has already done the right thing. The European Union approved a 54 billion Euro aid package to support Ukraine as it fights to hold onto to ground it has recaptured from Russian forces. In addition, separate European countries have given large amounts together with what they can provide with weapons and ammunition. Those who reside in Europe clearly understand the existential nature of this conflict.  

What Europe cannot provide are significant amounts of ammunition and weapons, due to low production capacity that takes time to increase. Without such deliveries, Ukraine will lose. A loss would mean the destruction of Ukraine as a state and nation, the manifestation of a gruesome occupational power, and millions of Ukrainian refugees. 

Russia, China and the Global South see this war as a Russian confrontation with the U.S. and NATO. A Russian victory will be seen as a defeat of the West and in particular will negatively impact the perception of the U.S. as the world’s leading power. So far, Russia’s war on Ukraine has demonstrated NATO coercion and power, and without the U.S. this may now falter.  

NATO has already proven to be an ally and invoked Article 5 in support of the U.S., providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance following the 9/11 attacks, protecting this country from potential further attack from the air almost immediately after this seminal event. Moreover, NATO and its exposed member countries provided troop contributions supporting the United States’ prosecution of the war on terror in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation for many years.  

Reciprocity is needed; the U.S. must support Ukraine, not just for Ukraine’s sake but to demonstrate to Russia its resolve as a significant member of NATO. 

Let it be clear: this war depends on the U.S. and Europe. Collectively they need to rise to the occasion and provide continued economic support. Europe cannot deliver on military support alone. Ukraine has already demonstrated that defeating Russia is achievable. 

We understand the challenges regarding politics in the U.S., as well as the financial implications, akin to $60 billion in aid. That is a paltry amount when looking at what it would cost the U.S. if it were pulled into a global conflict with NATO to fend off an attack by Russia on a fellow NATO country. Now, more than ever, Congress needs to put partisan politics aside, do the right thing and get back to supporting Ukraine. 

Tom Røseth is an associate professor and head of the Ukraine Program, Oslo, Norway at the Norwegian Defense College. He is also is the editor of “Intelligence Relations in the 21st Century.” 

John Weaver is an associate professor of intelligence analysis at York College of Pennsylvania and the author of “NATO in Contemporary Times:  Purpose, Relevance, Future.” 

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