When a courageous underdog country such as Ukraine suffers devastating losses to an aggressive, genocidal invader, it is easy to say that other nations should do more to help. But what does “more” mean?
If it means sending troops into Ukraine (or Ukrainian air space) and risk getting into a shooting war with another nuclear power run by an delusional tyrant, most Americans would object. President Biden understands this.
He has rightly rejected the invitation to start World War III, opting instead for an “all of the above” strategy. On the arms front, he previously decided against sending aircraft to Ukraine because, contrary to claims from his critics, they proved unnecessary in the battle for Kyiv. Now that the action has shifted to the Donbas region, Biden has responded appropriately. After sending a $800 million security assistance package the prior week, Biden announced on Thursday that he would send “another $800 million to further augment Ukraine’s ability to fight in the east,” which will include dozens of Howitzers, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and tactical drones. All of which was to begin shipping within 24 to 48 hours.
Biden also reminded Americans of the vast quantities of other military equipment and critical intelligence offered to Ukraine. For every Russian tank, the president said, the United States has sent 10 antitank systems. And in “facilitating the significant flow of weapons and systems to Ukraine from other Allies and partners around the world,” the United States has ensured that Ukraine has the weaponry to maintain the fight and continue to turn back Russian forces, which few thought possible. Biden has come close to exhausting the funds allocated by Congress and will need to ask for additional funds.
In addition to arms, the United States gave Ukraine this week another $500 million in non-military aid, bringing the total to about $1 billion in two months. Biden explained: “This is money the [Ukrainian] government can help use to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Biden has assembled an unprecedented international sanctions regimen that halts U.S. imports of Russian fuel and commits Europe to weaning itself from Russian oil and gas. In addition to the raft of financial sanctions added almost weekly, Biden announced on Thursday a complete ban on Russian ships in U.S. ports.
After some criticism for moving too slowly on accepting refugees, Biden is also stepping up U.S. efforts to take in Ukrainians. He already announced the United States will take 100,000 refugees and has launched a new humanitarian parole program, called “Unite for Ukraine,” which Biden said will “complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians, including immigrant visas and refugee processing” and “provide an expedient channel for secure, legal migration from Europe to the United States for Ukrainians who have a U.S. sponsor, such as a family or [a nongovernmental organization.”
Finally, Biden has channeled and amplified the world’s outrage. He was right when he said Russian leader Vladimir Putin should not remain in office. Likewise, Russia is committing war crimes. And the United States has unified public opinion on the necessity of preserving Ukraine’s freedom and self-determination. Biden does not mince words: “Every American taxpayer, every member of our Armed Forces can be proud of the fact that our country’s generosity and the skill and service of our military helped arm and repel Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”
Biden has been clear that Ukraine’s battle is ours as well. “The Battle of Kyiv was a historic victory for the Ukrainians. It was a victory for freedom, won by the Ukrainian people with unprecedented assistance by the United States and our allies and our partners,” he said on Thursday. He added, “Our unity at home, our unity with our allies and partners, and our unity with the Ukrainian people is sending an unmistakable message to Putin: He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine.”
At times, Biden seems uniquely capable of conveying the moral exasperation of civilized people. “These past weeks have seen a terrible human cost of Putin’s ambition for conquest and control,” he said. “Approximately two thirds — two thirds — of all Ukrainian children have been displaced from their homes. More than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their country. It’s an absolute outrage. The idea this is happening approaching the second quarter of the 21st century is just … (sigh).” Yes, it’s beyond words.
Biden warned that this will not be a quick fight, noting that “Putin is banking on us losing interest.” He continued, “We will not lessen our resolve. We’re going to continue to stand with the brave and proud people of Ukraine. We will never fail in our determination to defend freedom and oppose tyranny.” Such rhetoric may not rise to the level of Churchill, but it serves as an eloquent expression of steadfastness.
In our age of perpetual cynicism, distrust and discontent, it would be unheard of for an opposing party to acknowledge that an administration is doing just about everything humanly possible to confront evil. But this administration is. For that, Biden deserves a great deal of credit.
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