WASHINGTON — A panel of national security experts urged the United States to commit more military and allied support to Ukraine on Tuesday at a discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council, a foreign affairs organization.
The panelists also called for an expedited Ukraine accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. These requests were laid out in the Atlantic Council’s “Memo to the President,” which was co-signed by 40 national security officials. Their goal is to help Ukraine win the war against Russia and suppress Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats toward Europe and the U.S.
John Herbst, former ambassador to Ukraine, said a win for Ukraine would be a win for the U.S. Herbst said Russian cyberattacks against the U.S. and the risk of nuclear warfare should prompt President Biden and Congress to go on the offensive. Herbst said the Biden administration’s inaction has been “driven by timidity” and fear of provoking Putin.
“The (Biden) administration has yet to explain in clear language that vital American interests are at stake,” Herbst said.
Despite the implications of victory for the U.S., many politicians are split on how to support Ukraine, or if it is even necessary. In its recently passed short-term funding bill, Congress voted to keep out $6 billion in Ukraine aid.
Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told ABC News that without the aid, the Ukrainian resistance could soon falter and give way to a Russian victory. Herbst said intervention from Biden would silence the small faction of House Republicans who have voiced stark opposition to Ukraine aid.
“What we have here is not so much supporting Ukraine and its war against Russia, but containing an aggressive Kremlin at the lowest possible cost to the United States,” Herbst said. “I hope (Biden) makes that point, and if he does, I suspect the American people will rally, and the quasi-isolationists will have the rug pulled out from under them.”
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark said it is imperative the U.S. keeps its eye on the ball with Russia, even as a war escalates between Israel and Hamas. More than 1,000 people have died in Israel and 830 people have died in Gaza, CNN reported.
Clark said Hamas’ attack serves as a distraction from Russia and gives China and North Korea the chance to supply the country with weapons. The general also added political upheaval within Congress is to Russia’s benefit.
“On the other side of the world, China’s watching, and they’re asking ‘How strong is this country America? They’re pulled in two different directions. They’re easily distracted. They’re politics don’t work. They can’t even get a speaker of the house,’” Clark said.
According to the Washington Post, the White House is considering bundling aid for Israel and Ukraine together, which could increase the likelihood of congressional approval.
Senior Advisor of the Eurasia Center Debra Cagan said aid to Ukraine should include advanced weaponry, such as short-range missiles and demining equipment.
“Give (Ukrainians) what they need to suppress (Russia’s) air defense and give them what they need to fight back against 40% of territory that has been landmined.”
Cagan said the Russian military has a “nasty habit” of laying landmines across territory behind Ukraine frontlines. This has led to significant civilian casualties, including the deaths of women and children.
“This is not a humanitarian-fought war in the least, and people ought to understand that,” Cagan said.
In a nod to its resourcefulness, Cagan said Ukraine has shown an ability to “Macgyver” advanced military technology without sufficient support from the U.S. She said this is justification to admit Ukraine to NATO.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow agreed, adding NATO should grant Ukraine an expedited membership action plan. Vershbow said the nation exemplifies a commitment to NATO’s values and has extensive military experience.
“What we’re proposing is a slight rearranging of the sequence of how prepared candidates are brought into the alliance,” Vershbow said.
Vershbow said Ukraine’s NATO membership would secure long-term protection against Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed NATO on Monday and reminded the alliance of the proliferation of global terror. Zelensky compared Hamas’ attacks on Israel to Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, calling both attackers “the same evil.” Zelensky highlighted Hamas ally Iran’s backing of Russia, which has supplied attack drones and weapons factories.
Ukraine launched a counteroffensive four months ago to regain territory in its east and south regions. However, the attacks have not yielded significant progress. Offering unwavering military support and creating a formal alliance with NATO offers Ukraine the best chance of defeating Russia and maintaining stability in Europe, Vershbow said.
“We need to do everything we can to enable a Ukrainian victory. We need to embrace victory as the goal. We’ve been dancing around it for a year and a half,” Vershbow said.