Opinion: Not the time to cheap out on Ukraine


Published: 11-11-2023 5:55 AM

Russell Perkins of Concord works with Dobro New England (a Ukraine-dedicated non-profit).

Twenty months into Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine we are hearing people on the street and people in Washington say that we are spending too much money helping Ukraine. Anybody who says that, whether on the street or in Washington has not put much serious thought into the matter.

How much should we be willing to spend to stop Vladimir Putin’s reconstitution of the U.S.S.R by force and to unleash genocide 2.0 on Ukraine? Genocide 1.0 was Stalin’s 1932 Holodomor when millions of Ukrainians were deliberately starved.

Since beginning this unprovoked war, Vladimir Putin has been warning the United States not to assist Ukraine by doing this, that, or the other thing. Russia desperately would like to see the United States curtail its assistance for Ukraine. This alone would convince a thinking person that we should not do that. Why do that which your enemy wants you to do? And following the recent Hamas attacks on Israel, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said that the U.S. should have been concentrating on the Middle East situation rather than “interfering with Russia” in Ukraine. Western military experts have long thought that Putin’s war strategy in Ukraine was to try and hold on until the West’s patience or money runs out and support for Ukraine ends.

If U.S. aid was to dry up, Ukraine would not immediately forfeit the war, but Russia’s fortunes would brighten significantly. They would be able to drag the war out longer, kill tens of thousands of more soldiers and civilians, and make significant territorial gains which would probably lead to Ukrainian concessions in the end. The borders of the new Russian Empire which Vladimir Putin is hoping to construct would expand into Europe.

What about the question, are we spending “too much”? The total 2023 U.S. federal budget was $1.7 trillion. Congress allocated almost $45 billion for Ukraine aid. That amounts to about 2.6 % dedicated to saving an entire culture and millions of people from Vladimir Putin’s genocide; 2.6% dedicated to stopping Vladimir Putin from accomplishing step one of his crusade to reconstitute the U.S.S.R. and re-enslave all of eastern Europe.

If we only consider individual taxpayers and forget corporate taxes, that $45 billion would be 73 cents per day per American taxpayer. For those who think that even 73 cents a day is too much, consider how your 73 cents per day is actually used. It is used to either procure new weapons and ammunition from American defense contractors or to pay them to replace materials that are drawn down from existing stocks. America’s biggest defense companies, Raytheon, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, and Boeing, have each gotten Ukraine-related contracts worth billions of dollars over the past year. This is money that is paid out to those companies’ suppliers and U.S. employees. Nobody is dumping wheelbarrow loads of dollar bills on the streets of Kyiv.

But those who want to pinch their 73 cents per day should listen to recently departed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. In a recent interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, he predicted that the U.S. defense budget would need to double if Russia wins its war against Ukraine. He was not asked to elaborate but surely that would be due to NATO having to beef up defenses all along its border with Russia in an effort to keep that border from moving even further into Europe.

At a Ukrainian fundraising event earlier this month, a person said to me, “I wish Zelenskyy would just give up and let the Russians have what they want. Then we wouldn’t be wasting billions of dollars and all this killing would stop.” I was at a loss for words, not because I had no good answer, but because I didn’t know where to start. If Zelenskyy gave up and signed Ukraine over to Russia, by definition the war would stop. But remember what Mark Milley said. The U.S. would not be saving billions of dollars.

More importantly, killing wouldn’t stop just because the war stopped. Yale history professor Timothy Snyder is an expert on Ukraine. In an interview with MSNBC he said, “Ukraine civilians would continue to be killed and tortured under Russian occupation. The only way to stop the killing is to win the war.” If you don’t believe that, and you have a strong stomach, Google photos of Bucha, Mariupol, and Lyman.

That the United States would abandon Ukraine when it most needs our help was unthinkable a few weeks ago. Now, with Putin-sympathizing isolationists trying to seize control of the U.S. Congress it could become a shameful reality. We can’t let that happen. As Joe Biden famously reassured the world on the night of February 24, 2022, America stands up to bullies.