The Ukrainian Money Pit
Friday, May 13th, 2022
No one contests that the actions by Vladimir Putin and his Russian force are abhorrent, but to what degree does the rest of the world bear responsibility in assisting the Ukrainian people's defense? The United States just exited a messy 20 year war costing nearly $3 trillion in Afghanistan, and faces its own domestic economic turmoil. Do we have an obligation to assist and to what end?
On February 24th, 2022, Putin officially invaded the Ukrainian border and brought forth new global tension with fears of World War III kicking off to prevent further Russian aggression. But something miraculous happened. Ukraine fought back, and have since maintained their capital city of Kyiv. Russia's forces have looked inexperienced, under supported, and completely in-effective - an embarrassing revelation for a world leader many feared since his rise to power in 1999.
Common, everyday folk, including farmers and shop owners have taken to the streets with their own weapons to fight back. Ukrainians have no interest in bowing to the Russian regime. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has even been out and about wearing body armor, standing shoulder to shoulder with his own people. Ukraine's resolve has been inspirational and a testament to humanity's dedication to sovereignty.
As the war has raged on, President Zelenskyy - and others in the international community - have consistently called on NATO, the UN, and specifically The United States, to assist in every way possible. Thus far, we have only provided funds and equipment but many fear there will be a time where US troops are called upon. Until that time, how much money are taxpayers comfortable with sending to assist in Ukraine's defense?
On May 11th, The US House of Representatives passed a $40billion Ukrainian aid package that has brought forth more debate of what The United States' obligation is, especially amid our economic turmoil since the pandemic. Inflation is nearing 10% and the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates by 0.5%. The housing bubble has been looming, showing echoes of the 2008 crisis, and gas is up to nearly $5.00 a gallon on average.
How Much Should the United States Help?
With our own house seemingly on fire, including being the most divided politically than ever, should we be so focused on the events in Ukraine? Strategically, I'd say yes. We have to keep our finger on the pulse of all international affairs to remain prepared and informed should anything truly threaten our national security. But Ukraine's situation as it stands today? Should we be expending so much resource? I tend to lean towards no. But that doesn't mean we do nothing.
It is important to note that the US isn't the only nation providing aid to the Ukrainian effort. According to Al Jazeera, there are 17 other nations providing both money and equipment. But the US has by far sent the most in dollar amount much to the dismay of those who believe we need to start chipping away more significantly at our national debt rather than getting involved in another country's conflict.
In my opinion, there is most definitely a number between $0 and $40billion that the United States can commit to, but maybe this is a situation where we either need to commit fully and stand up to Russia's aggression OR we allow Ukraine to handle itself. Many Americans have become so much more isolationist since the failings of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), but when legitimate national security concerns are in play we can't remain neutral. The question is how much does Russia's invasion of Ukraine really affect us and our allies? Or how honest are our government officials being with us?
Is there a threshold in which we get involved? That information, to the extent that it securely can be, needs to be made transparent with clear plans and goals for the American taxpayers to see. Too often, defense contractors stand to make insane amounts of money off of US involvement. Congress lines its pockets with backroom lobbying deals and sells fear of Russia and the potential consequences of Ukraine falling to its constituents. Anything to justify billions in defense spending. We know these Gulf of Tonkin style things happen to justify involvement and pump up the money making machine. We just witnessed 20 years of it.
While our support of Ukraine can exist, must it be $40 billion dollars worth?
Yesterday, May 12th, Senator Rand Paul (KY) derailed a plan to fast-track the $40 billion aid package through the Senate. He has proposed an amendment to assign an inspector general to oversee how the billions were to be spent. Paul has long been an advocate for ending America's role as a policeman for the world and desperately argues for our government and its political players to have power reigned back in. While he delayed the bill to next week and his amendment will be voted on, there is no doubt this package goes forward.
"My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation. And no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States,"
"Passing this bill brings the total we’ve sent to Ukraine to nearly $54 billion over the course of two months," he continued. "It’s threatening our own national security, and it’s frankly a slap in the face to millions of taxpayers who are struggling to buy gas, groceries, and find baby formula."
A Moral Question
What Ukrainian citizens are dealing with right now is truly horrendous. Countless videos that have surfaced online of alleged war crimes being committed by Russian troops as well as chemical weapon threats from Putin himself show the lack of care for humanity Russia has. If we had a crystal ball and knew that Russia wouldn't stop at Ukraine, perhaps there is an argument to be made for us to join the rest of the world in opposing this threat in a more impactful way. If Poland gets attacked, or another NATO country, I see no reason we don't get involved.
Many believe, including Ukrainians, that the United States with all its power and resources has the moral obligation to help when those are in need. Perhaps we do have that obligation to a degree, but with a crumbling infrastructure and wounded economy are we really in a position to help without further putting ourselves in a hole?
At what point do we have to accept that Ukraine's war with Russia isn't our issue to fight? And if there are massive national security concerns with the outcome of said war and Russia's natural resource control, that needs to be better communicated with the public. Especially with public trust of our institutions at an all time low.
But still, we have to define our line in the sand. What constitutes such an egregious situation in which we have to get involved? If that parameter is just civilians suffering, why haven't we dealt with North Korea, China, or Russia prior to this? Not to mention the Taliban's brutal control of Afghanistan after our exit. Evil in the world will always exist and we can't be the default savior.
If our own house was in better order and our national debt wasn't through the roof, would we then feel more comfortable committing this much aid? I personally would, but I still would be apprehensive in sending troops until it became absolutely necessary.
Ukraine's defense seems to be holding out, but Russia definitely has the ability to swing harder punches than it has been, God forbid they use any of those measures. Putin's unpopularity within his own country may prove to be his downfall, but until then we have to decide how embroiled we want to be in this war. Keeping tabs on intelligence reports and having plans in place is a must, but spending this much money while our own nation's population struggles to pay rent proves our priorities are out of whack.
But our misplaced priorities sadly aren't anything new...
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