Poteau Daily News

Helping Ukraine puts America first — that’s why Biden should have helped Ukraine all along

- Jim Inhofe United States Senator

Let’s be clear: Supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia puts American security interests first. With the military aid the United States and our partners have already delivered, our friend Ukraine has pushed back Vladimir Putin’s invasion, dramatical­ly weakened the Russian military and prevented them from encroachin­g even closer to North Atlantic Treaty Organizati­on (NATO) territory. Continuing this aid now makes it less likely that our sons and daughters will have to fight a war against Russian aggression later.

We also need to be clear that for the last 17 months, President Joe Biden could have done much more to deter Russia — and much less to appease Putin.

One of Biden’s first acts as president was to extend the New START arms reduction treaty with Russia for five more years, without holding Putin accountabl­e for violating the Intermedia­te-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and developing new nuclear capabiliti­es.

Next, in his first budget, Biden tried to drasticall­y underfund the U.S. military and shrink the size of our force — our most effective deterrent against Russian aggression.

After Putin began his aggressive military buildup along the Ukrainian border in spring 2021 — the precursor to the invasion — Biden rewarded Putin by offering a one-on-one summit in the summer — right after his first NATO Summit, adding insult to injury for our NATO allies.

In the fall, it was revealed that Biden’s National Security Council was scrutinizi­ng U.S. military exercises in Europe, a key deterrence tool, for being too provocativ­e.

Along the way, Biden refused to wield a major nonmilitar­y signal to Russia that we won’t accept its invading Ukraine: NordStream 2 sanctions. This was contrary to the consistent position of congressio­nal Democrats, who had been united with Republican­s in seeking to block this pipeline from getting up and running. The Biden administra­tion not only let the project proceed, it actively thwarted bipartisan attempts in Congress to block it.

However, nowhere has Biden dragged his feet more than on military aid to Ukraine.

Despite Putin’s clear intent to invade, the Biden administra­tion blocked delivery of additional military aid to Ukraine all last summer. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan admitted it, warning the administra­tion would only approve more aid “in the event that there was a further Russian incursion into

Ukraine.”

After snubbing the Ukrainian president all summer, the administra­tion finally approved a meeting between Zelenskyy and Biden at the end of August — along with the aid package.

Even as Russia’s imminent invasion grew more apparent, the Biden administra­tion dragged its feet on every effort to deliver more credible weapons to Ukraine. When Biden finally got around to asking Congress for additional funding to send aid this March, two weeks after the invasion began, Republican­s had to fight to increase the administra­tion’s inadequate request.

Maybe if the Biden administra­tion hadn’t spent its entire first year in office signaling to Putin that he can do whatever he wants without consequenc­e, he would not have felt so emboldened to invade Ukraine.

Now, we have to deal with the situation as it is. We must send Putin a clear message that he cannot continue his reckless attempts to rebuild the Russian empire and threaten U.S. security interests in Europe.

As I have long advocated, that means investing more in Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. Stronger U.S. action gives Putin pause, strengthen­s our European partners’ and allies’ ability to defend themselves, and keeps threats farther from our shores.

This includes robust funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which I helped create in 2015. Of course, when we sought to require some of that funding go to lethal military aid, we faced opposition from the Obama-Biden White House — including many of the same officials who dropped the ball in responding to Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014 but are in charge again today.

It’s unfortunat­e this administra­tion didn’t learn a lesson then. It is only now doing the right thing after Congress, our European allies and partners and most of the rest of the world had already leaned forward with support for Ukraine.

Let’s hope Biden learns this lesson now. Let’s hope that he starts thinking one step ahead of the crisis, instead of staying 10 steps behind.

Inhofe, a Republican, represents Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate and is ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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