This morning’s print edition of The Wall Street Journal featured an op-ed by Olaf Schotz, Germany’s Chancellor, expressing concern about the status of Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Ever since Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014, European officials have been traveling to Washington to express concern and urge greater support for Ukraine. The stream of European officials coming to urge Washington’s commitment jumped when Putin launched his full-blown invasion in 2022.
And I doubt I can count how many European officials have been to Washington just in these last two weeks making the case before Congress and throughout the Executive Branch for support for Ukraine to have what is needed to defeat Putin.
Europeans understand the threat and are deeply concerned over Washington’s self-deterrence that has resulted in the slow-walking delivery of vital weapons to Ukraine and now the inexcusable hesitancy to pass the supplemental to provide funds that must be used to get Ukraine weapons so long denied.
Far too many Americans dismiss Putin’s war as being far off and of little to no importance to them. Worse, there are those in Congress who embarrassingly think the same.
American involvement in two wars was proceeded by similar myopic thinking that, in the end, cost unnecessary lives and resources.
Europe is critically important to the United States.
Before getting to the Chancellor’s op-ed, I note that on January 29, Luke Coffey, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and an invaluable member of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN), testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation on NATO.
In his testimony, Luke briefly pointed out just how important Europe is to the United States and really each one of us.
… it is useful to remember why Europe is important to the U.S. While there are many normative and values-based reasons Europe is significant (e.g., a shared belief in basic freedoms and the fact that some of America’s oldest and closest allies are in Europe), the main reason the continent—and by extension, NATO—matters to the U.S. is economic.
The countries of North America and Europe together account for approximately 48 percent of the global economy. Europe is America’s largest source of foreign investment. Crucially, Europe is America’s largest export market. In 2022, 45 out of 50 states exported more goods to Europe than to China. Our largest Pacific-facing state, California, exported twice as many goods to Europe as to China. New York exported eight times more, Florida six and a half times, and Texas three times more. Europe matters to the American heartland, too. For example, Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky each export about four times more to Europe than China. Even Belgium, a small European country about the size of Maryland with a population like Ohio, was the top export market for six U.S. states in 2022.5 NATO is the primary security guarantor of America’s largest export market.
When Americans build something to export, that means American jobs are being preserved or created. European stability, which Russia is trying to undermine, impacts not only the U.S. economy but also the American worker. In addition to a robust NATO, aiding Ukraine helps preserve stability in Europe.
Europe is important to us, Ukraine is Europe, and Ukraine defeating Putin is critically important to us.
Regarding Putin’s threat to us all, we should be listening to the Europeans who understand the threat and who can feel the threat.
Read the German Chancellor’s op-ed:
Feb. 7, 2024 1:58 pm ET
Make no mistake: A Russian victory in Ukraine would not only be the end of Ukraine as a free, democratic and independent state, it would also dramatically change the face of Europe. It would deal a severe blow to the liberal world order. Russia’s brutal attempt to steal territory by force could serve as a blueprint for other authoritarian leaders around the globe. More countries would run the risk of falling prey to a nearby predator.
This possibility is why the U.S. and Europe support Ukraine’s fight for freedom. President Biden’s leadership has been critical to ensure that Vladimir Putin’s aggression is met with a united and successful response. So far, Mr. Putin hasn’t achieved any of his war goals. He thought that he could take the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, within two weeks. After two years, he still is far from accomplishing this, and Ukraine is bravely withstanding the Russian onslaught. This is due to the heroic fighting of the Ukrainian people, but it’s also a result of the West’s fiscal and humanitarian support and the delivery of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.
The European Union and its member states have been Ukraine’s largest financial supporter, having contributed more than $91 billion since the beginning of the war, followed by the U.S. and Germany. Germany’s military support is second only to America’s. Since the war began, my government has earmarked, procured, and delivered military equipment, including tanks, artillery, and high-value air defense systems, worth more than $30 billion. This has come on top of Germany’s nonmilitary support, including welcoming over one million Ukrainian refugees and our share of the EU’s support.
Our message is clear: We have to do our utmost to prevent Russia from winning. If we don’t, we might soon wake up in a world even more unstable, threatening, and unpredictable than it was during the Cold War. Despite our support, Ukraine could soon face serious shortages in arms and ammunition. Some financial commitments have already run out, and others need to be extended. The long-term consequences and costs of failing to stop Mr. Putin’s aggression would dwarf any of the investments that we are making now.
So, what needs to be done?
First, we must sustain our support. On Feb. 1, the European Council decided to commit an additional $54 billion in fiscal aid to Ukraine over the coming four years. This must be complemented by additional military assistance, and I have called on my European colleagues to make the necessary budgetary decisions. Like the U.S. and others, Germany stands ready to provide Kyiv with long-term security commitments and arrangements so that Ukraine can deter and defend itself against future Russian attacks. As a highly industrialized country and prospective EU member, Ukraine will be able to support a well-equipped modern army if it can repel Russia’s aggression. That prospect increases the security of us all.
Second, we must continue to move in a strategic lockstep on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr. Putin is trying to undermine our unity and turn our citizens against supporting Ukraine. Others around the world are watching closely to see whether these divisions can be exploited and whether disinformation campaigns can take hold. We must prove them wrong by convincing citizens on both sides of the Atlantic that a Russian victory would make the world a far more dangerous place. It would also strain our budgets while putting the freedom and prosperity of each of us in peril.
Third, we don’t see ourselves at war with Russia and don’t seek confrontation with Russia. We will resist any attempt to drag the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Fourth, the collective deterrence and defense of NATO must be credible. Since I took office, Germany has massively ramped up its defense spending to 2% of its gross domestic product. We launched the European Sky Shield Initiative to boost European air-defense capabilities and will base a full German combat brigade in Lithuania on NATO’s eastern flank.
The sooner Mr. Putin understands that we are in this for the long haul, the sooner the war in Ukraine will end. The only way that we can contribute to a lasting peace is by keeping up our support, unity, and resolve. We must stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Mr. Scholz is Germany’s chancellor.
Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network
The introduction is Mr. McConnell’s and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network.