Wicker: American Leadership Is Being Tested
Defeat Russia to Deter China
February 13, 2023
Nearly a year ago, Russia launched its unprovoked, illegal, and brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. But as the world has witnessed, Vladimir Putin vastly underestimated the Ukrainian people and their courage and ingenuity.
For Americans, Russia’s invasion revealed that the peace and security American troops fought for in World War I and World War II is under attack. We now have a chance to help Ukraine win and to deter future Russian and Chinese aggression at the same time.
Winning in Ukraine is Vital to American Interests
It is unfortunate that the Biden Administration has failed to make the case for victory to the American people. The President’s near-constant delays of much-needed weapons and intelligence to Ukraine have prolonged the war.
A victorious Russia, or even a “frozen conflict” in Ukraine, threatens American security and trade with Europe. When Vladimir Putin says that he seeks the “collapse of Western hegemony,” he means the power of the U.S. and of our allies. In 2022, transatlantic trade generated one-third of global economic output and supported 16 million American jobs, including more than 20,000 in Mississippi.
America’s continued support for Ukraine is a sound investment. In 2022, our aid came to just 0.2% of GDP, a smaller percentage than Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Baltics. No American troops have been put in harm’s way, and Russia is now severely weakened. While countries like France and Germany need to do more, American leadership has inspired our NATO allies to spend tens of billions of additional dollars on their own defense – a major priority during President Trump’s administration.
American aid is subject to strict oversight. Twenty reviews of Ukraine assistance have been completed, with another 64 ongoing or planned. As ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue that oversight.
The Chinese Communist Party Is Watching
The People’s Republic of China is watching Ukraine with interest. Its chief military goal is to take the democratic island nation of Taiwan. Such an invasion could throw the global economy into a depression and threaten Americans’ access to the Taiwanese semiconductors that power our electronics, cars, and prosperity.
The connection between Ukraine and Taiwan is not lost on anyone. Three weeks before his invasion, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping announced their “no-limits” partnership during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. As Japanese Prime Minister Kishida recently noted, “Ukraine today could be Asia tomorrow.”
Far from distracting us from China, defeating Putin in Ukraine would deter Xi Jinping in the Indo-Pacific. It would enhance American security in the region and reassure our allies and partners about the seriousness of our leadership.
The Arsenal of Democracy
The United States’ interests in Europe are clear: a swift Ukrainian victory. That would leave Russia unable to threaten our allies and partners and make would-be aggressors think twice before attacking their neighbors. Victory will require strengthening our defense industrial base and arming Ukraine with more, better, and faster deliveries of advanced weapons, like ATACMS, long-range missiles, and Grey Eagle and Reaper drones.
The United States was the Arsenal of Democracy during the Second World War. If we fulfill that role again, we will show Xi and Putin that there are very real limits to what their partnership can achieve.