Earlier this month, CNN published the results of a poll that found that most Americans oppose sending more money and military aid to the Ukrainian government. A closer look reveals that Republican voters are behind the results. Around seven in ten Republicans oppose sending more support to Ukraine.
The poll results have prompted an effort among establishment Republicans and neoconservatives to bring the party’s voters back in line. Days after CNN published the results, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell called for continued support and made an attempt to speak to what he sees as common Republican concerns.
“People think, increasingly it appears, that we shouldn’t be doing this. Well, let me start by saying we haven’t lost a single American in this war. Most of the money that we spend related to Ukraine is actually spent in the U.S., replenishing weapons, more modern weapons.”
Former Republican congressional staffer Steven Moore has made a similar argument. “If you’re a fiscal conservative, you know this is a great use of taxpayer dollars. And not one single American soldier has had to die.” Defending Democracy Together, founded by neoconservative Bill Kristol, recently launched Republicans for Ukraine, an ad campaign meant to pressure congressional Republicans to ignore their constituents and instead listen to the testimony of fifty handpicked “pro-Ukraine Republican voters.”
These are new attempts to push the same basic lie we have been fed since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022: that sending money and weapons to the Ukrainian government is in our national interest. It very well may be in the interest of people in government and their friends at weapons companies. But continuing to send tax dollars and resources to the Ukrainian government is not in the interest of the American people. Or of the Ukrainian people, for that matter.
As outlined in this article by Kyle Anzalone, there were four opportunities before the February 2022 invasion for the American and Ukrainian governments to work out their tensions with the Russian government peacefully. None of these opportunities were taken. And as a result, the region descended into war.
Still, even early in the conflict, there were opportunities for talks. But in April 2022, Western officials expressly told the Ukrainian government not to negotiate with the Russians.
The US government and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies acted like they could weaken Russia and improve Kyiv’s leverage in negotiations down the road by waging a proxy war through the Ukrainian government. But that did not happen. The Russian forces first took control of much of eastern Ukraine and later declared them part of Russia.
There was a surprising Ukrainian victory in the northern city of Kharkiv last fall. But a nightmarish battle earlier this year to defend the strategically inconsequential city of Bakhmut broke that momentum. Now the failures of the long-hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive have forced some US officials to admit that the best opportunities for Ukraine to negotiate have already passed.
And so, if our government were truly acting in our interest, it would at least push for talks immediately before wasting more of our money and resources. Continuing to encourage fighting, as McConnell, Moore, and Kristol are, will at best delay the necessary negotiations and at worse risk escalating the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.
This is to say nothing of the interests of the Ukrainian people, who have already endured unimaginable suffering. They have lost their lives, livelihoods, and liberties in a brutal war that should have never broken out. It’s sickening to frame this war as being in our interest because “no American soldiers have had to die.”
The war in Ukraine has been fruitful for the weapons industry and the politicians on the receiving end of their lobbying. But it’s been terrible for the American people and catastrophic for their Ukrainian counterparts. If the political leadership of the West does not work to end this conflict, things are guaranteed to get even worse, and no one will suffer more than the Ukrainian people.