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Ukraine is a valuable investment for the US

In a world striving for stability, one truth stands firm: the US must stand by Ukraine. Amidst changing political winds, one principle remains paramount - sustaining aid to Ukraine is more than just a duty, it’s a strategic necessity.

On 24 February 2022, Vladimir Putin announced his ‘special military operation’ seeking the ‘demilitarisation’ and ‘denazification’ of Ukraine. The US has led Western efforts to support Ukraine in the face of aggression by imposing economic sanctions, providing military aid, and offering financial support.

However, American popular support has waned. A poll in October 2022 found that 30 per cent of Americans and 48 per cent of Republicans felt that the US was ‘doing too much’, compared to six per cent of Republicans in March.

Notably, in February, Donald Trump asserted that the US should not be “sending very much,” but instead, “negotiating peace”. With the high probability of Trump securing the Republican nomination, and trailing Joe Biden in national polls by a narrow margin, the notion of dwindling US support for Ukraine no longer seems inconceivable.

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American support for Ukraine is not just a moral obligation; it’s a strategic imperative. By bolstering Ukraine against Russian aggression, the US not only reinforces an international rules-based order, but it also secures economic benefits, strengthens global alliances, and strategically weakens a geopolitical adversary.

Firstly, US aid to Ukraine reinforces a rules-based international order that the USA has sought to establish. By punishing acts of aggression, the US signals a commitment to freedom, democracy, and international law.

Conversely, Putin consistently flouts international law. He has violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and engaged in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Given that the US has catalysed attempts to promote international adherence to the rule of law, the US has moral and ethical commitments to Ukraine.

Inaction is synonymous with complicity. The US must not signal weakness or accept a political climate where pre-emptive or aggressive measures are acceptable.

Additionally, US-led sanctions have favoured US trade. By disrupting trade with Russia’s largest trading partner, the EU, American natural gas exports grew to $1.4bn within the first five months of the conflict, up from $490m in the same period in 2020.

The conflict has also disrupted financial markets in Europe, boosting the value of the dollar, which has reasserted itself as the global reserve currency.

Furthermore, any withdrawal of support signals unreliability. Russian aggression stimulated solidarity among democracies, emboldening an emerging ‘axis of evil’ – Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China.

The US cannot risk strengthening adversarial resolve. A robust response must be maintained to deter Chinese aggression over Taiwan and the South China sea, saving future defence spending.

Throughout the 21st century, US hegemony has diminished. However, the war in Ukraine has re-established the US as the de facto leader of the West. Moscow’s invasion ignited anxiety across Europe, solidifying their dependence on NATO and the US. Remarkably, Putin’s aggression prompted traditionally neutral states, Sweden and Finland, to apply for NATO accession, despite his ominous “potential targets” warning.

European states are now as reliant on the US as ever. NATO defence spending surpassed €200bn for the first time in 2022 and member states revitalised defence spending after a decade of NATO efforts to persuade them to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. It would be a grave mistake for the US to turn their back on these steadfast allies.

Finally, and most significantly, the Russo-Ukrainian War presented the US with opportunities to cripple a major challenge to US hegemony. The conflict has developed into a proxy war between the US and Russia. Yet while Russia sustains the burden, the US remains unscathed.

Russia military spending continues to spiral and their military has suffered thousands of casualties and massive war equipment losses. Meanwhile, the Russian economy is struggling. This effectively restricts Putin’s capacity to threaten Europe or challenge the US in future conflicts.

The US has effectively disabled a potential rival with minimal cost. In 2022, the US gave $50 billion in aid to Ukraine, a mere 0.23 per cent of its GDP, and less than most European counterparts. For example, Estonia spent 1.3 per cent and Latvia spent 1.2 per cent between January 2022 and May 2023.

Ukraine can only sustain its defence with American support. Quote

Ukraine can only sustain its defence with American support. Any recoil will prologue the conflict and cost more in recovery spending, which is already forecast to be hundreds of billions.

The cost of inaction would be astronomical, especially if Putin sees weakness as an opportunity to escalate and expand into Belarus or Moldova. No strategic ally would trust the US following a withdrawal of support. The costs of compensating such a strategic defeat and an emboldened China would far outweigh their tiny relative contribution.

Ukraine is not asking for soldiers, only the means to fight, and their contribution thus far has seen extreme success and provided priceless insight into Russian vulnerabilities.

It is important to acknowledge that while the costs of supporting Ukraine are not insignificant, they pale in comparison to past military endeavours like Iraq and Afghanistan. Importantly, this commitment serves a greater strategic purpose. The USA both neutralises a potential challenger and deters future threats, demonstrating the value of sustained assistance to Ukraine.

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Ellis Coughlan is a Senior Political and Media Consultant at Bridgehead Communications

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