The Costs of Not Supporting Ukraine Far Outweigh the Costs of Supporting It | Opinion


Ukrainian soldiers take part in military drills in the Donetsk region, on Jan. 21, 2023, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

While there was initially strong bipartisan support for massive American military assistance to Ukraine at the start of the war, a growing number of Americans—especially some (but by no means all) Republicans—now believe that Washington is giving too much to Kyiv. Those who think this way have cited several objections. These include that it costs too much, that money spent on Ukraine means less available for a possible confrontation with China over Taiwan, that the Europeans aren’t paying their fair share, and that such massive American support for Ukraine risks the possibility of a direct Russian-American confrontation.

There is no doubt that American support for Ukraine has been highly expensive. But what also must be considered is what the cost to America and its position in the world would be of reducing or ending this support. The U.S. could incur far, far greater costs if Washington curtails—and especially if it ends—its admittedly expensive military assistance to Kyiv.

While many countries have provided military and other support for Ukraine, America has shouldered the main burden of doing so. If this aid came to an end, Ukrainians would undoubtedly fight on for as long as they could, but Russian forces would be in a far stronger position to hold onto Ukrainian territory they have already seized and to take even more. A decline in American support for Ukraine would reinforce Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s view that America and the West will tire of the conflict and withdraw from it, leaving Ukraine to his tender mercies.

Even continuing American support for Ukraine but at reduced levels risks Putin concluding that he can hold on to all Ukrainian territory Russian forces are now occupying and that the West will pressure Kyiv into accepting a settlement to the conflict in which Ukraine has to make concessions to Russia. Such a settlement, of course, would then give Putin the time he needs to rebuild his depleted forces and launch another attack.

The argument that American support for Ukraine somehow distracts Washington from preparing for a conflict involving China is an odd one. Massive American support for Ukraine, which has enabled it to stoutly resist Russian aggression, must give Beijing pause that the U.S. might give massive support to Taiwan to resist an attack from China. Reducing or ending American support for Ukraine, by contrast, could only raise hopes in Beijing that there would also be a limit to Washington’s support for Taiwan.

While some European governments have given a great deal of support to Ukraine, it is true that Europe as a whole has been less supportive of Kyiv than Washington. Since the war in Ukraine impacts European security even more immediately than it does America’s, some in Washington think that this is unfair to the U.S. Perhaps it is, but that is not the point. The reality is that less American support for Ukraine is more likely to result in less—not more—European support for Kyiv. And diminished support from both America and Europe will result in diminished Ukrainian capacity to resist Russian aggression.

Some have warned that a desperate Putin might launch a nuclear attack against Ukraine. A direct U.S.-Russia confrontation, especially involving nuclear weapons, is not something that Washington wants. But it is not something Moscow wants either. Whatever else he may be, Putin is not suicidal. While he has raised the specter of nuclear war, he has done so as a means of limiting Western support for Ukraine. The Biden administration’s response of continuing to aid Ukraine and warning Russia about the consequences of using nuclear weapons has so far been successful, while reducing American aid to Ukraine seems guaranteed to induce Putin to continue raising the possibility of nuclear war as a means of reducing Western assistance even further. In other words: Less American assistance to Ukraine will not necessarily induce Putin to stop raising the specter of nuclear war.

While the fall of Kabul was bad for America’s image, reducing military support to a government whose forces were unwilling and unable to defend it is quite different from reducing military support to a government whose forces have proven that they are willing and able to do so. As horrible as Taliban rule has been for Afghans, withdrawing U.S. forces from Kabul was a form of cutting U.S. losses from a venture that had long proven to be unsuccessful. But if the U.S. limits or ends support to a nation that is willing to defend itself, then every government allied to the U.S. will have to consider whether the U.S. would defend it from attack despite any treaty obligations (which ultimately cannot be enforced but rely on the belief that the U.S. will honor them to be effective), or whether they need to cut their own anticipated losses by trying to make a deal with their attackers by trying to appease them. And that, as we know from the British and French agreement with Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938, may only succeed in postponing, not preventing, an attack.

The costs America has incurred through supporting Ukraine so strongly have been great. But the costs America would incur through reducing, much less ending, support for Ukraine would be far, far greater.

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.


  1. “Reducing or ending American support for Ukraine, by contrast, could only raise hopes in Beijing that there would also be a limit to Washington’s support for Taiwan.”

    Right! This is something very large, looming in the minds of our enemies in Beijing. When Trump, or DeSantis or other ignoramuses focus on the need of opposing China – rightly so! – they blissfully ignore the fact that China will only be encouraged to act aggressively towards Taiwan or in any other direction it sees fit if we cut and run from Ukraine.

    “A direct U.S.-Russia confrontation, especially involving nuclear weapons, is not something that Washington wants. But it is not something Moscow wants either.”
    “Less American assistance to Ukraine will not necessarily induce Putin to stop raising the specter of nuclear war.”

    My words all along. Mafia land/Putler won’t go nuclear. They are filthy criminals and subhuman creatures, but even they know that using nukes means game over for the whole planet.

    The entire last paragraph should be closely studied by the above mentioned Americans and many others too, who have not learned from grossly bad mistakes in the past. Appeasing is what it boils down to if we stop helping Ukraine. Appeasing to mafia land and its evil compatriotes in Iran, North Korea and China.

    Thus, either we follow through with this and emerge stronger than ever, or we chicken out and cowardly aboandon a brave country that respects and honors us and hand the world to trash countries on a silver platter, like Trump and DeSantis and other Moscow puppets want to do.

  2. Alot of hot air expended on the supposed waning support for Ukraine in the media.
    A stable 65% of U.S. adults prefer that the United States support Ukraine in reclaiming its territory, even if that results in a prolonged conflict.These data are from a Gallup web survey conducted Jan. 3-22,
    Potential candidates should look to the polls.
    As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, Americans’ support for the nation, despite a prolonged conflict, has held steady. Although the degree of support varies, majorities of all party groups would like to see the U.S. support Ukraine in regaining its territory, even if that entails a prolonged conflict, rather than end the conflict quickly and cede territory to Russia.

    • Right. And, this is a speck of positiveness that gives me hope that the Biden administration doesn’t start to get the feeling of being under pressure by the people to stop Ukrainian aid.

  3. With the shitty support Ukraine received so far they won’t be able to liberate much further. If no F-16s/Gripens, Apaches and long-range-missiles will be delivered NOW, Ukraine will be worn out and sold downe the river once DeSantis or Trump became POTUS.

    • Do you think? If GLSDBs can be delivered in any numbers, I don’t see Russia having a chance. They won’t be able to use expensive anti-aircraft missiles in sufficient numbers to counter it.

      Cheap and numerous GLSDBs can do more than F-16s. Have you read how they did with close air support in desert storm? They are too vulnerable to small arms fires and didn’t even have to go up against MANPADS which I presume the Russians will have.

      Goodbye supply lines.

      I tell you what. We are giving Ukraine far, far more aid than Ukraine ever gave us when we struggled with 80%+ casualty rates in crushing the evil of that flag you display.

      • The flag is not the original Confederate Flag. It replaced the original flag to become the flag of the South. If my flag is evil i will fuck you until you are dead you leftist pedophile homosexual zionist sorry piece of shit!

Enter comments here: