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No “blank check”, but the US should continue to support the war in Ukraine

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OPINION AND COMMENTARY

Opinion’s editorials and other content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent of the work of our newsroom reporters.

November marked nine months since the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. The fighting takes place more than 5,000 miles from Fort Worth and does not affect our daily lives. Why should we invest in its outcome?

Until this moment, our government generously provided military support to Ukraine. Not surprisingly, many Americans are beginning to question our “blank check” approach.

In fact, a recent poll found that 48% of Republicans believe that the United States has been sending too much aid to Kiev. Our federal government will spend more than $1 trillion more than it brings in this year. It’s reasonable to say that we don’t have enough resources to take care of ourselves, let alone another country.

It is also a fact that our support for Ukraine is depleting our weapons stockpile. For example, fewer available artillery shells will make us more vulnerable if attacked.

In addition, the Ukrainian government was not a model of democratic transparency. In 2021, Kyiv took 122nd place out of 180 countries according to the Corruption Perceptions Index. Why should we spend so much money on a country that has no track record of financial integrity?

While the Conservatives are right to call for an assessment of our government’s support for Ukraine, we must not waver in our military aid. We should not underestimate the risk Russia poses to us and the rest of the Western world.

In accordance with Freedom House, which advocates democracy and human rights, international political freedom has declined every year since 2006. Allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex Ukraine would expand the influence of an already corrupt government. Russia’s victory may encourage other countries to seize sovereign territory by force. Consider China’s threats to “reunify” with Taiwan.

There are other reasons to stay the course no matter how long the war lasts.

Despite the loss of life and heavy humanitarian losses, the course of the war demonstrated to international governments that American weapons are the most advanced in the world. This development will improve our position in Asian countries such as Pakistan and India, and win contracts for American arms manufacturers, including potentially Lockheed-Martin here in Fort Worth.

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FILE – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Brown, right, of the 436th Airlift Squadron inspects pallets of 155mm shells that are finally headed to Ukraine, April 29, 2022, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The U.S. is sending another $400 million to Ukraine, bringing needed ammunition and generators to Ukraine from its own stockpiles, which will allow aid to be delivered to Ukraine faster than if the Pentagon were to buy weapons from industry., getting much-needed heat and additional air defense to Kyiv as winter approaches . (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) Alex Brandon AP

We pledged to defend Ukraine when we signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. In it, Russia, Great Britain and the United States agreed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for the destruction of Ukraine’s large nuclear arsenal. We have to keep our word or it won’t be worth much in the future.

Finally, despite the financial stake, this war does not cost American lives. And it works. We are steadily eroding Russia’s conventional military potential.

Republicans in Congress can strengthen support for financing Ukraine by creating control over spending money. Establishing an American observer to check the distribution of weapons on the battlefield would be reasonable. We must also insist that future support be tied to the creation of effective anti-corruption systems in Kyiv.

The American people deserve a strategic plan that defines the scope of expected spending. Congress will have an opportunity to develop them when it approves the next federal budget.

Since Putin’s only chance of victory is to isolate Ukraine, he is counting on a protracted war to weaken our resolve. But the situation burdens the Russians more than the Americans, and weakens Putin’s position at home. How long can he stay in power when his war cost the lives of around 100,000 Russian soldiers?

Much is at stake: the protection of nuclear facilities in Eastern Europe, the cost of energy around the world, grain supplies to developing countries, the sovereignty of Ukraine’s borders and, most importantly, Western pressure on dictators who do not care about human rights.

We must decide to stand firmly with Ukraine until the end of this terrible war.

Brian Byrd, a former city councilman, is a physician in Fort Worth.

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