Senator Collins to Administration: Build Public Support for Ukraine by Making U.S. National Security Case
“Our involvement in Ukraine is in America's national interest.”
Washington, D.C.—At a hearing to review the Department of State’s fiscal year 2024 budget request, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Biden Administration to make a much more forceful argument for supporting Ukraine in order to reverse declining public support. Senator Collins explained that in addition to protecting Ukraine from the horrific human rights violations committed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, providing humanitarian and military assistance is firmly in the United States’ national security interest and will dissuade other potential aggressors, such as China, from attacking their neighbors. Last May, Senator Collins traveled to Kyiv and met with President Zelensky for two hours.
Let me start with Ukraine, Mr. Secretary. There are those who view our support of Ukraine as an either-or proposition for our national security. And they argue that either the United States focuses on pushing back Russian aggression in Ukraine, or the United States focuses on countering the rising influence of China. I don't agree with that assessment. I view the two challenges as interconnected, and believe that Russia and China are working in concert to reshape the international order to our disadvantage. Two questions for you: First, what message would it send to China and Russia were we to abandon Ukraine at this point? And second, please articulate the case for why our involvement in Ukraine is in America's national interest.
Madam Vice Chair, thank you very much for that question. First of all, I fully agree with you. And let me put it this way. Because it does go, in effect, the second part of your question actually goes right to the first part. Why is this in our interest? Why is it profoundly in the interest of the United States to do what we've been doing? Which is to continue to stand with Ukraine, as it defends itself against this Russian aggression. To continue to exert pressure on Russia, to end the aggression, and to strengthen our own alliance, defensive alliance, NATO, in case that aggression spreads.
It's two reasons: Fundamentally, first of all, I think Americans do not like to see big nations bullying smaller ones. That's something that sticks in our craw. And we see the horrific abuses and atrocities that are being committed. And that's something that I think Americans focus on very intensely. But fundamentally, the reason is this; if we allow the Russian aggression in Ukraine to go forward with impunity, if we allow the very basic rules of the road for how countries relate to one another, that were established after two World Wars, and that focus, among other things, on making sure that countries respect the territorial integrity of other countries, respect their independence, respect their sovereignty—if we allow that to be violated with impunity by Russia and Ukraine, we open a Pandora's Box around the world, where would-be aggressors everywhere look at this and say, if they can get away with it, I can too. And that is a world of conflict. That is a world of war. That is a world that we've been in before. And we've had to come in and do something about it. But it's not a world that we want.
So, the stakes in Ukraine go well beyond Ukraine. And to your point, I think it has a profound impact in Asia, for example. Everyone is watching to see how we and the world respond to this aggression. And they'll draw their lessons from it. One of the reasons that there are so many partners involved in this from Asia is precisely because even though this is happening half a world away, they see the stakes for them. One of the leading countries in our coalition to support Ukraine is Japan. South Korea is playing an important role. Australia is too. And they see the stakes. I think, if China is looking at this, and they are looking at it very carefully, they will draw lessons for how the world comes together or doesn't, to stand up to this aggression.
Thank you, and let me encourage you and other members of the administration, including the President, to make that case to the American people much more forcefully, so that we do not see this continuing, troubling decline in public support for our efforts in Ukraine. It goes way beyond doing the right thing from a moral or humanitarian viewpoint. It's very much in our interest.
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