foreign policy

Ukrainian MP: Some critics of U.S. aid are playing ‘domestic political games’

Andrii Nikolaienko pushed back against U.S. lawmakers skeptical of continued aid to Ukraine at the Aspen Security Conference

(Photo by Andre Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

ODESA, UKRAINE - JULY 23: A view of the Transfiguration Catherdal, which is the main Cathedral in Odesa, is damaged after a missile strike in Odesa, Ukraine on July 23, 2023.

Ukrainian MP Andrii Nikolaienko told Jewish Insider he thinks U.S. lawmakers skeptical of continued U.S. aid to Ukraine don’t fully understand the situation and are being driven by domestic political concerns.

“Some of the people who [oppose] continu[ing] supporting Ukraine [are] simply play[ing] domestic political games,” Nikolaienko suggested to JI in a brief interview on Friday on the sidelines of the Aspen Security Conference. “They have no real idea about geopolitics and foreign affairs.”

Nikolaienko noted that aid to Ukraine is “a very, very small portion” of the total budgets of the U.S. and other Western countries — and that they’ve benefited greatly from Ukranian efforts, which have undermined Russia’s status as a global power by showing its military weaknesses.

He also argued that Ukraine is fighting for the “values” of the West — a goal he said history shows is even more important than tactical and strategic success on the battlefield.

“Ukraine is fighting now for the values of democracy, for the value of dignity and protecting everything that is the real basis of the West,” Nikolaienko continued.

Despite their growing prominence in U.S. political discourse such skeptics of aid to Ukraine went largely unrepresented during the weeklong conference. In stark contrast, several senators offered strenuous defenses of  continued U.S. assistance.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), standing to address the room during a panel with fellow senators, offered an impassioned defense of U.S. aid to Ukraine, and argued that the administration should be taking an even more aggressive approach.

“I’m tired of hearing about escalation,” Risch said. “If you don’t escalate, you’re going to lose. I want Putin to wake up in the morning worried about what he’s going to do that’s going to cause us to escalate, instead of us wringing our hands.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who has also spoken out in favor of continued U.S. aid, said “It’s our job, and it’s the president’s job to explain to the constituents why this is in America’s best interest. And that’s what we all try to do.”

Cornyn also described himself as part of the “coalition of the rational” supporting Ukraine, and said that it is the “tremendous responsibility” of such lawmakers to “not leave a vacuum that’s filled by people who are perhaps misguided, perhaps misinformed or perhaps have ideological convictions that I disagree with.”

That analysis was bipartisan. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said while there are “worrisome voices at the margin in both parties, and every foreign minister and head of state I’ve met with since the war began worries about the sustainability of American support, if Europe keeps pulling their weight, we’ll keep pulling our weight.”

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