I am not a student of history, geopolitics, or economics. I confess that I have about a 7th grade grasp of world events most of the time. Therefore, I am being sincere when I say that I need someone to explain something to me like I was a child. Speak slowly and in simple language. No platitudes, vague historical references, or moral right vs. wrong inferences. I’m looking for a clear, fact-based argument. Ready?
Why is it in the United States strategic interest to fully fund, arm, and (eventually) defend Ukraine?
What I find when I search on this subject is mostly vague arm waving and teeth gnashing about “we can’t let naked aggression like this go unchecked”, or “if we don’t stop Russia here and push them back, they’ll soon be rolling into Poland”. There’s plenty of moral justifications thrown out – “we can’t stand by and let innocent civilians be slaughtered”, or the WWII reference of “we stood by when Germany began occupying other countries, we can’t let that happen again”. All of those things may be true. But none of them are an argument for why the US needs to be the one to solve it.
This is not a defense of Russia’s actions. For a variety of reasons, Russia made the strategic choice to invade another country. War is awful and never leads to a good outcome for anyone involved. Period. You can hate Russia all you want for their decision… but it doesn’t change the fact that they did it. So, now what?
The US has committed upwards of $60 billion dollars, with future pledges bringing the total to over $100 billion. We’ve depleted our own stockpiles of military hardware so we can send it to Ukraine. We have troops on the ground in-country, we’re providing training, intelligence, targeting, and continue to push the envelope with more and more advanced military technology. We seem to be doing everything possible to poke the Russian bear and provoke an escalation. Why? Why is all this in our interest?
So back to my child-like questions:
- Ukraine is not a NATO member, nor has it been a historical ally. Why does the US need to be the one to defend them?
- Russia has not attacked a fellow NATO member, so you can’t claim we’re fulfilling our article 5 duties. Why are we there?
- If the European countries are feeling threatened… shouldn’t that be primarily a European problem to solve?
- Given that any future threat is to Europe, shouldn’t the vast majority of aid be coming from European countries?
- Given that we’re $32+ trillion in debt and have a whole host of issues of our own to solve, we do we need to be sending $100 billion to Ukraine?
- We just ended (badly) a 20-year war that cost us $5+ trillion. Why do we need to engage in another war?
- And finally… how is it in our strategic interests to provoke Russia to the brink of a nuclear exchange?
Here’s something nobody wants to talk about. Without US support, Russia would have pretty quickly taken a large portion of Ukrainian territory. Whether that is good or bad is subject for another discussion. Regardless, we enabled Ukraine to push back sufficiently enough that this war will now go on for a very long time. No matter who wins, the end outcome will be that Ukraine will be left a smoking heap of ash. There will be nothing left. Its infrastructure will be completely destroyed. Its agricultural, drilling, and mining exports are already gone. As we approach spring, Russia will accelerate its targeting of all power infrastructure, water, sewer, and industrial capacity. They will turn Ukraine into a wasteland and force a mass exodus of refugees. Whatever is left of the population will be facing actual famine. That’s reality.
Do you really think Russia is suddenly going to say, “whoops, my bad. Sorry about that”. Is Russia going to decide tomorrow to just pull back with its tail between its legs? Doubtful. The US has done everything possible to accelerate and prolong this war. Now what? When Russia sends 300,000 troops over the border this summer, what are we going to do? Ukraine is rapidly running out of fighting age males to throw at the problem. This is why they need more and more advanced battlefield tools – they can no longer win with just infantry. Are US ground troops and air cover next?
If Russia loses a couple hundred thousand troops by next fall, don’t you think battlefield nukes are a realistic option for them? Then what do we do?
None of this makes sense to me. I really need someone to explain to me in simple terms, why it is in the United States strategic interest to own this mess?
P.S. The actual answer to all of this of course, is the military industrial complex. We want to sell weapons. That’s it. It’s that simple. Sorry.