In the annals of American Congressional insanity, this week’s block on aid to Ukraine ranks with the attempts by some U.S. politicians to scupper shipments of arms to the UK in 1940, at a moment when this country stood out alone against Hitler. The vote in Congress was an act of pure addlepated myopia.
It showed a failure to grasp the essential lesson of the 20th century — that you cannot just ignore the actions of faraway dictators. You cannot shut your eyes to the death and destruction they cause, because sooner or later that chaos will be hurled upon your own shores — arriving sometimes by the boatload, sometimes by the car bomb.
It seems incredible that the U.S. should be faltering in its support for Ukraine and for freedom, when so much has already been achieved, and when victory is still — I believe — inevitable. The Ukrainians have managed to recapture 50 per cent of the territory once occupied by Putin’s troops.
They have already humiliated a war machine once billed as the second most powerful on Earth, and sent it scuttling. They have given the swaggering Wagner Group such a hiding that its leader went berserk and mutinied — obliging Putin to assassinate one of his most egregious and veteran cronies live on global TV.
Ukrainian forces are now back on the eastern bank of the Dnipro river. They are contesting Russia’s ability to control the Black Sea. They have the huge moral advantage that they are fighting for their hearths and homes, while Putin’s sad conscripts are being fed into the meat grinder of Avdiivka without really believing in the cause that requires them to die. That is why I am certain that Ukraine will eventually win, because all Putin’s rage is now crashing against the rock of Ukrainian nationhood.
Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi shake hands as they begin talks today
He has already lost 300,000 men in a pointless, cruel and criminal war against fellow Slavs — fellow Russophones, for heaven’s sake. How many more will he butcher, on either side? All the Ukrainians need to do is hold on, and then to recapture the rest of their home soil. With the right kit and support, they can do it.
How sad and incredible, therefore, that the counter-offensive in the south has now been paused, because the Ukrainians are out of 155-calibre shells, and do not have enough of the long-range ATACMS missile systems. How weird, how illogical, that the U.S. should spend $75 billion — and now decide to pull the plug. And where, come to that, is the next big tranche of UK support?
The MoD put forward another £2.6 billion of military aid in June; and unless it is approved, Britain’s contribution next year will simply dry up. We are now being outspent by the Dutch, and if Western assistance continues to tail off — as it currently is — that will be a tragedy.
It is not just morally right to help the Ukrainians to protect themselves, and to ensure the freedom and independence of an innocent country. As an investment in the security of the West, the Ukrainian cause makes unimpeachable sense.
Look at what the U.S. military are getting for their investment. Those Pentagon billions are driving jobs in the American military-industrial complex. Those arms shipments have enabled the Ukrainians to degrade the armed forces of one of America’s biggest and most long-standing strategic adversaries — and all without putting a single pair of U.S. boots on the ground.
So why do the Congressional Republicans want to block the spending on Ukraine? Because they insist on tying the Bill to domestic measures: to curb immigration into the U.S. Why should we spend more on foreign wars, they say. Let’s fix things at home!
Can they not see the irony? Can they not see the connection? The war in Ukraine is about freedom, about the rights of the Ukrainians to repel the raping and murdering Russian army. After almost two years, it is now also about the credibility of the West in standing up to tyrants and autocrats everywhere.
Ukrainian soldiers fire towards Russian positions on the front line in the eastern Donbas region
Over the past 20 years, Western powers have repeatedly backed away, or decided not to intervene, from Syria to Ukraine, and the resulting wars have led to more disruption and dispersal of people — often simply fleeing the disaster area in hope of a better life. Look at the tides of humanity that are approaching the shores of Britain and the U.S., and that are causing such strains in the politics of all Western democracies.
Whence do they come? From Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, from all the places that we have abandoned when Western powers have decided to cede influence to others. They come from the Sahel, where the French have yielded to Russia, and they pass through Libya, which we left in chaos in 2011, and of course they make their way across the Mediterranean, to Europe, in huge numbers.
They come from Iraq, which we abandoned in 2011, and from Afghanistan, which we abandoned in 2021, and from Syria which we left to its fate in 2019. And of course they come from Ukraine, where tens of millions have been displaced.
The people causing the chaos are the autocrats and their proxies. It is Putin’s mercenaries who have been happily driving immigrants out of the Sahel region. It is the Belarusian tyrant Alexander Lukashenko who has adopted a deliberate strategy of sending migrants into Poland.
We must thank Iran for fomenting strife across the Middle East, whether in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon, and it is Iran that furnishes both Putin and Hamas with weapons. The North Koreans are helping Putin to rebuild his depleted stock of shells.
The autocrats of the world are creating this chaos, and driving these tides of humanity, because they know one big thing: those displaced people will not want to go to live and work in an autocracy, not when they have the hope of arriving in a Western liberal democracy, where they have freedom of religion and speech, as well as free healthcare, housing and an extraordinarily generous welfare state.
No migrant goes to Russia, China, Iran, North Korea if there is a chance of getting to a Western liberal democracy. So mass migration has become a tool by which the autocrats try to vex and disrupt the democracies.
To put it crudely: they don’t care if their activities lead to mass movements of humanity — because they won’t feel it themselves. If Putin wins in Ukraine, it will be yet another spur for the copycat chaos-makers around the world.
To those in America who think they can be isolated from all this — forget it. What happens if the Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro attacks Guyana? Where will the refugees go?
We are engaged now in a huge arm-wrestle between the democracies and the autocracies, and we must be strong. It has been famously said that the U.S. can always be relied upon to do the right thing — having exhausted all available alternatives.
I am sure that will be the case with Ukraine. Frankly, no President who wants to make America great again can kick off his term by letting Putin win.
We need Britain and Europe to rise to the challenge because America can’t do it alone. Ukraine must win, not just for the sake of the Ukrainians, though that is reason enough, but for the sake of peace and stability everywhere.