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This shows why President Biden should have addressed the nation on Ukraine
Patrick Asare -- Author of 'The Boy from Boadua' Patrick Asare -- Author of 'The Boy from Boadua'
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Wyomissing, PA
Sunday, April 21, 2024


Winston Churchill is said to have remarked that “Americans will always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else.” On the $61 billion Ukraine military aid bill that was finally approved by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, America finally did the right thing. However, before then, not much trying had been going on. Right-wing Republicans in the House had basically blocked all action on the bill, and for a while, it looked as if Ukraine was going to be left in the cold.

It took courage from House Speaker Mike Johnson, himself a Republican, to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. A few hardliners in his party had repeatedly threatened to oust him from his post if he did. Ultimately, he had to rely on the support of Democrats to get the bill passed. It will be sent to the Senate this week, where it is expected to win bipartisan approval, followed by swift signing by President Biden.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 36% of Americans think that the U.S. is doing too much to help Ukraine, while an equal percentage believes it is not doing enough. The former group is quite vocal. The pressure that its members put on their representatives caused the delay in getting much-needed weapons to Ukraine, allowing Russia to make gains on the battlefield.

America is known as the indispensable nation in the world, but we have no obligation to serve as the global policeman. Our national wealth is not unlimited, and we don’t have endless military resources. We therefore cannot put out fires everywhere. But on the Ukraine war, we don’t have a choice. We have a responsibility to help in their defense against Russian aggression. Given the deep divisions in the country on this issue, that is a case the president should have made to the American people long ago.

Sanctity of contracts is a bedrock principle of the American system. When we signed the Budapest Memorandum, the agreement under which Ukraine sent its nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for security assurances from us, we took on an obligation. Largely, young Americans don’t know much about this compact because it was signed in 1994, before most of them were born. The awareness within the adult population seems equally minimal, judging by the large numbers of people who say that what is happening in Ukraine is none of our business.

The media has been even more disappointing in this regard. The press has shirked its duty to inform the public on a matter of such national importance. Of the hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles that I’ve read since the war started in early 2022, I have seen just a couple of references to the Budapest Memorandum. As far as I know, the obligation associated with it has not been explicitly discussed anywhere on television.

In a Wall Street Journal article published after the bill passed in the House yesterday, Speaker Johnson was quoted as saying that he was motivated to bring the package to the floor by recent intelligence he saw on the war. Because he is second in line for the presidency, he receives highly classified briefings. It was somewhat disheartening to hear that from the speaker. In my view, it shouldn’t have taken such top-level secret information for a high-ranking government official like him to recognize what is at stake in Ukraine. But he deserves enormous credit for being open-minded.

Former President Donald Trump, who is the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election, recently suggested that any additional U.S. military aid to Ukraine should be “in the form of a loan rather than a gift.” The press should ask him to explain why he thinks that is the approach Congress should take. If any driver hits another person’s vehicle and damages it, whether by accident or not, they are obliged to pay for the repairs. The person who caused the wreck cannot choose to pay for a partial fix, and then talk about providing a loan to the other driver for the remaining work. By giving Ukraine that security assurance, we assumed an obligation. We cannot abandon them while they are under relentless attack by the Russians.

If Speaker Johnson, in his capacity, needed an intelligence briefing to help him make up his mind on Ukraine aid, then it is even more obvious that average people like me needed some serious education on this issue. With his bully pulpit, President Biden was best placed to speak directly to this broader audience. That unfortunately did not occur. We should hope that the aid package hasn’t come a bit too late for Ukraine.

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