Give War a Chance: Democracy Conference Pushes Guns, Not Talks, for Ukraine

Even the Biden administration, whose top leadership publicly disagrees on when diplomacy should begin, has made one of the strongest arguments for continued, uninterrupted aid to Kyiv.

“The outcome of the war in Ukraine will help determine the course of global security in this young century, and those of us in North America have no opportunity to let this one pass,” he said. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a press conference. address received on Saturday before flying to Asia. “Stability and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic are at stake.”

The forum has long served to galvanize American and Western leaders around issues of global importance in an effort to promote democracy around the world. Ukraine’s fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression was the focus of this year’s session.

“We cannot let Russia and Putin get away with this kind of aggression,” Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said on the sidelines of the meeting.

“The Ukrainians are waging this war, but it is also our war,” she said. “If Russia won, it would have a direct impact on our security.”

Participants addressed the growing debate over when and how to begin talks during three days of public and private sessions, but the main message of the conference was to redouble efforts to support Ukraine. And Ukrainian officials who traveled thousands of miles mid-war to Halifax said they felt heartened by the support. “I feel a strong connection, especially being here,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna told reporters during a panel discussion.

Fresh out of midterm elections that saw control of the House shift from Democrats to Republicans, a group of nine lawmakers pointed out that bipartisan support for helping Ukraine defeat Russia is not waning on Capitol Hill.

“This is probably one of the most bipartisan issues I’ve seen in my time in Congress,” the senator said. jim risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“There are only a handful of people who are reluctant to engage in this struggle in Ukraine,” Risch added. “So focus on the majority. We are required to do this on a bipartisan basis. We are arm in arm on this. Despite such promises, Ukraine has expressed concern that a Republican-led house is not keen on long-term economic aid.

The global repercussions of the war in Ukraine were at the heart of the concerns of leaders across Europe. “If we lose in Ukraine, we lose Belarus, we lose credibility,” Poland’s defense chief, General Rajmund Andrzejczak, told POLITICO during the conference. China is watching the conflict closely, Andrzejczak added, and since Beijing is a more serious long-term threat, success in Ukraine will also have effects in the Indo-Pacific.

“It’s about synchronizing our efforts,” he said. “If we don’t complete the mission in Ukraine first, we won’t be ready for mission number two, which is China.”

The general’s comments underscored how the tone in Halifax was a 180 turn from last year. Then, the botched US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the January 6 insurgency, and Russia’s military buildup on the Ukrainian border led transatlantic allies to question the strength of US democracy and its global commitments. China was also the big villain of the conference, with panels and late-night powwows centering on limiting its rise to power and tackling its authoritarianism.

But this year has brought far less attention to Beijing and even less criticism to the United States. The consensus was that Washington and its Western allies were right to prioritize fighting Ukraine — and should continue to do so — while derailing China’s machinations in cyber and technology. The tone in many ways mirrored the two major NATO meetings in Brussels and Madrid this year, where previous attempts by NATO to focus on countering Chinese influence were almost completely snuffed out by Ukraine.

Ukrainian leaders clearly saw in the forum an opportunity to strengthen their position. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Presidential Office Chief Andriy Yermak, National Security Adviser Oleksiy Danilov and others have addressed elite audiences virtually, dismissing calls for an imminent negotiated peace. Instead, they declared that Ukraine was now the frontline of global democracy, a sentiment shared by many forum participants.

“Today we have the historical unity of all democratic countries around Ukraine, and this is very important. We are together, we will be together after winning this war,” Yermak said on Saturday.

The insistence on this unity may have been particularly fervent due to tensions that arose in the days leading up to the conference over a missile that landed across the Ukrainian border in Poland, killing two civilians. . Ukraine initially said a Russian-launched missile was to blame, although Warsaw and Washington said evidence pointed to a Ukrainian air defense missile. Now both capitals have pledged to await the outcome of an investigation before commenting further.

Like other Western leaders, Andrzejczak blamed Russia for the incident as it happened amid a barrage of 100 Russian missiles launched Tuesday night targeting civilian infrastructure.

Sunday’s question, after two days of conference sessions, was where to go from here. A response may soon be needed, as there were hints that Kyiv had plans for a next phase of the war.

Yermak and Stefanishyna, the deputy prime minister, both hinted at an upcoming military campaign to regain control of Crimea, the peninsula Russia illegally annexed in 2014. Neither official spoke of delays, although Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister told Sky News that Ukrainian troops would be in Crimea by the end of December.

Congress is also expected to consider $38 billion in new aid to Ukraine over the next few weeks under a government funding package. The Biden administration’s latest request adds to the roughly $66 billion that Congress has appropriated for military, economic and humanitarian aid since Russia launched its all-out invasion in February.

Lawmakers can increase aid beyond what the administration seeks.

Sen. Chris Coon (D-Del.) Argued that Congress should increase Biden’s demand for humanitarian aid as well as capitalizing on battlefield gains.

“It’s specifically my hope that we’re going to add to the humanitarian aspect of it,” Coons told reporters.

“The United States needs to make it clear that we are ready to not only provide the package that the president has requested, but to add to it assets that we believe will help defend Ukraine,” Coons said.

representing Sara Jacobs (D-California), however, insisted that funding for Ukraine be deeper in the future. “I hope the focus on winning goes beyond the guns, because I think it’s going to take a real effort to rebuild,” she said. The emphasis should be on “the reconstruction of a democratic Ukraine”.

Lawmakers huddled with Austin on the sidelines of the conference on Friday. The Pentagon chief discussed, among other things, how aid could scale over time to address emerging challenges in Ukraine as well as the health of the defense industrial base, which needs to ramp up to deliver weapons and equipment while replenishing US stockpiles of weapons already sent to Ukraine. the front lines, according to Rep. Jason Raven (D-Colo.).

“I would much rather be a member of the defense and Ukraine contact group right now than Russia, because they are in very bad shape,” Crow said. “It’s going to take a very, very long time for Vladimir Putin and Russia to rebuild the military they had just nine months ago. It’s so bad for them.

“So, yes, what we’re doing is very effective,” he said. “But the opponent still has a vote.”


Politico

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