Up for debate: Would doing less in Ukraine help US prepare for China challenge?

16 February 2023
by Jamie McIntyre, Senior Writer

CHINA HAWKS SEEK SHIFT AWAY FROM UKRAINE: Just as Ukraine is facing a critical inflection point in what the Pentagon sees as a small window to break through Russian lines and reclaim the momentum in the yearlong war, there are Republicans in Congress who argue now is the time for the U.S. to scale back its support to Kyiv.


Among those advocating a turn away from Ukraine is Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who is scheduled to deliver an address today at the Heritage Foundation, in which he will advocate a defense policy that prioritizes China as America’s biggest threat and “challenges the consensus on Ukraine.” The speech will focus on “key decisions America must make to deter China – including doing less in Ukraine,” according to a press release from his office.


“I want the Europeans on the continent there to do the heavy lifting when it comes to supporting Ukraine,” Hawley told St. Louis television station KSDK last week. “Obviously I want to see Russia defeated …There’s no doubt about any of that.”


“The question is, what are America’s interests in the midst of this? Is our interest in nation-building in Ukraine? And by that I mean writing checks directly to the Ukrainian government,” Hawley said. “That’s what we’re doing and have been doing for months. What we should be doing is saying to the Europeans, Germany at the front of the list, you need to take the first priority, the lead in defending Ukraine and standing up to Russia. We will prioritize China.”




THE ‘UKRAINE FATIGUE’ RESOLUTION: Hawley is in the minority in his party, but he’s not alone. Last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a resolution that would express to the House that it’s time to cut off U.S. assistance to Ukraine’s war effort.


Dubbed the “Ukraine Fatigue Resolution,” the symbolic bill has no chance of enactment, but it did attract 10 hard-right cosponsors: Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Mary Miller (R-IL), Barry Moore (R-AL), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and Matt Rosendale (R-MT).


The complaints about the high cost of U.S. aid come as a survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that while Americans still think the U.S. should play “at least some role in the war,” support for specific interventions like supplying weapons is “waning.”


MCCAUL: ‘THEY JUST WANT TO KNOW WHERE THE MONEY’S GONE’: The new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says many who are wavering on funding for Ukraine are concerned about how the money is being spent.


“You’ve got people in the fringe elements on both sides that are just dug in. You have a lot of people in the middle on my side of the aisle who are just being a little bit quiet to see how the winds blow because their big question is, ‘I just want to know where the money’s gone,’” Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) said in an interview with the Washington Examiner to be published tomorrow.


“If I can explain that to them, and explain the accountability and the audits taking place … and then bring the Trump national security team in to say that this is the right foreign policy. I think those combined would go a long ways,” McCaul said. “What I want to do is basically be able to tell the story of where the money has gone. A third of it’s gone into replenishing our stockpile and modernizing our weapon systems, a third is going to our defense contractors to make new weapons, which we really need, and then a third’s going into Ukraine.”


“I mean, with less than 3% of our Department of Defense budget, they’ve annihilated the Russian military, they’ve humiliated them,” McCaul added. “Without one American soldier, which is key.”