It was nearly two years ago that Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and in recent months, the fighting appears to have ground to a stalemate. Aid from the United States has helped Ukraine get this far — but now Americans are asking, how long should they continue to support Ukraine in its war against Russia? At this point, just what are the stakes for the United States?
Since the war began, I’ve turned to Fiona Hill periodically for insight into what’s driving Russian President Vladimir Putin, and where America’s interests lie. She’s a keen observer not just of Russia and its leader, but also of American politics, having served in the White House as a top adviser to both Democrats and Republicans, including President Donald Trump. Since she left the Trump administration (and after a star turn testifying in his first impeachment), she’s become a highly sought-out voice on global affairs as well as the domestic roots of authoritarianism in countries around the world.
When we spoke this week, she made clear that the decision of whether Ukraine wins or loses is now on us — almost entirely. As Congress debates how much more money to authorize for Ukraine’s assistance amid growing Republican opposition, she says that what we are really debating is our own future. Do we want to live in the kind of world that will result if Ukraine loses?
Hill is clear about her answer. A world in which Putin chalks up a win in Ukraine is one where the U.S.’s standing in the world is diminished, where Iran and North Korea are emboldened, where China dominates the Indo-Pacific, where the Middle East becomes more unstable and where nuclear proliferation takes off, among allies as well as enemies.
“Ukraine has become a battlefield now for America and America’s own future — whether we see it or not — for our own defensive posture and preparedness, for our reputation and our leadership,” she told me. “For Putin, Ukraine is a proxy war against the United States, to remove the United States from the world stage.”
Hill sees U.S. domestic politics as the main obstacle to Ukraine’s ability to win. She has long warned, including in a book published after she left the White House, that high levels of partisanship in the United States promote authoritarianism both at home and around the world. She’s been talking to some lawmakers about Ukraine, and she’s worried that their partisanship has blinded them to the dangers the country faces if Putin gets his way.
“The problem is that many members of Congress don’t want to see President Biden win on any front,” she said. “People are incapable now of separating off ‘giving Biden a win’ from actually allowing Ukraine to win. They are thinking less about U.S. national security, European security, international security and foreign policy, and much more about how they can humiliate Biden.”
“In that regard,” she continued, “whether they like it or not, members of Congress are doing exactly the same thing as Vladimir Putin. They hate that. They want to refute that. But Vladimir Putin wants Biden to lose, and they want Biden to be seen to lose as well.” [Continue reading…]