Important thank yous and what must be done for Ukrainian victory

Bob McConnell, Amb. Kurt Volker, Amb. John Herbst
April 29, 2024


The New York Post has published an important op-ed by Ambassador John Herbst, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and a member of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN).

In the New York Post’s comment section, some have objected to thanking Republicans and more, but they missed the whole point, there are many thank yous due and appropriate that should be offered.  Not offering thank yous would be a mistake.

Likewise, it is critical to note mistakes have been and are being made.  Ambassador Herbst does that.

Below the Herbst op-ed is another important opinion piece, this one by Ambassador Kurt Volker, former Ambassador to NATO and a member of the Friends of Ukraine Network.

Kurt sets out positive steps that should be taken now to assure Ukraine’s victory and Putin’s defeat.


Thank Republicans — even Donald Trump — for Putin’s very bad week

By John Herbst
Published April 25, 2024, 7:59 p.m. ET

John Herbst is director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and a former US ambassador to Ukraine under George W. Bush

Thanks to the statesmanship of Speaker Mike Johnson, Russian President Vladimir Putin has suffered a very bad week.

The House of Representatives passed Saturday a $60.84 billion aid package for Ukraine.

The Senate passed it Tuesday, and Wednesday the president signed it into law.

Weapons from the package are already arriving in Ukraine.

The Kremlin has closely followed and celebrated the nearly seven-month delay in US aid.

The reason is easy to understand. As Putin himself made clear in Tucker Carlson’s deferential February interview, if the United States stopped sending weapons, the war would be over “in weeks.”

And the Kremlin could win.

Weeks after the September failure to pass the aid package, Ukrainian forces started to ration their use of ordnance, the main reason the Russians made incremental gains on the battlefield including taking Avdiivka and now closing in on the town of Chasiv Yar.

With American arms starting to arrive, Kyiv can stop rationing ammunition, and Moscow’s position short of Chasiv Yar may prove to be the high-water mark of its current offensive.

And the legislation’s call for closer oversight on aid appears to have persuaded the administration to do something it should have done earlier — plus-up the US embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation in Ukraine to help with all things military-aid related.

This is a welcome measure to regularize and oversee our military aid to Ukraine, which is absolutely essential to ensure Putin loses this war.

That is not the end of Putin’s bad week.

The package of bills passed included the REPO Act, which gives the president the authority to transfer frozen Russian state assets in the United States to Ukraine to compensate for the estimated $500 billion in damage Kremlin aggression has caused there.

While it’s widely believed there are only $5 billion of such Russian assets here, far larger sums of US dollars are held by US financial institutions in the correspondent accounts for foreign depositories such as Belgium’s Euroclear.

Such links confer US jurisdiction, as many international banks discovered not so long ago in cases involving sanctions evasion or money laundering.

Strong American leadership on this issue — not a given but moving in the right direction — could help persuade the other G7 countries to act.

Canada and the United Kingdom are already interested in this.

It’s caused great anxiety in Moscow and apparently among some American politicians such as Sens. Mike Lee and J.D. Vance, who inexplicably criticize the effort to make Russia pay for the great destruction it has visited on Ukraine.

Perhaps most surprising in the Kremlin’s week from hell was Donald Trump’s April 18 post noting the survival of Ukraine is important to America.

Moscow has been counting on the prospect of Trump winning the election and pursuing the weak policy toward Russia and Ukraine advocated by some of his loudest supporters, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Vance.

Perhaps Moscow forgot that Trump, unlike Barack Obama, sent Ukraine anti-tank Javelins.

Perhaps it hadn’t noticed that unlike those naïve politicians, Trump since last fall has not spoken out against aid to Ukraine.

In any case, this gives Moscow good reason to wonder if its elaborate plan to promote isolationism and political strife in America will bear fruit.

This development could also add to Moscow’s woes as it gives the White House a political reason to pursue a bolder policy in Ukraine.

Over the past two years, the Biden team, deterred by the Kremlin’s threats of nuclear escalation, has been consistently slow in sending Ukraine the weapons it needs — the principal reason for the small gains of Ukraine’s land counteroffensive last year.

Biden now needs to take into account the possibility Trump may start to call him on this.

Indeed, it would be smart politics for Trump to find his inner Ronald Reagan — recent polls show a 60% majority of voters in swing districts favor strong US support for Ukraine.

The Biden Administration Must Ensure Ukraine a Path to Victory. Here’s How.

Posted: April 26th, 2024
Ambassador Kurt Volker

Ambassador Kurt Volker is a leading expert in U.S. foreign and national security policy with over 35 years of experience in a variety of government, academic, and private sector capacities.  He served as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations from 2017 to 2019, and as U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 2008-2009.

OPINION – With the successful House of Representatives vote on Ukraine aid behind us, the Senate and the White House will move quickly to put the $61 billion package into law.  No doubt, the U.S. military has already been pre-positioning ammunition and equipment so it can deliver key elements of aid as soon as possible.

This is a key moment in ways that not everyone has grasped and reveals significant positives.  Some 71% of House members voted in favor of the bill, reflecting resounding bipartisan U.S. support for Ukraine at both the political and popular levels.  Several members of Congress favoring passage, highlighted the growing connections between Russia, Iran and China, a new axis of authoritarians who are actively working together.  This is a clear-eyed assessment of the threat facing the free world.

Former President Donald Trump provided political cover to House Speaker Mike Johnson to proceed with this legislation when the two met on April 12.  This is a clear sign that if re-elected, Trump does not want to inherit a disaster.  While he wants peace, he wants peace through strength, not peace through weakness and capitulation.

So much for the good news.  The bad news is that the delays and difficulty in passing the aid bill put U.S. national security at risk and should serve as a warning that this process cannot be allowed to drag on. We must no longer give Ukraine just enough to survive, but not enough to win.  A Ukrainian victory is essential to re-establish peace in Europe, to deter Chinese aggression in Asia, and to reinforce Iranian worries about attacking Israel ever again. Several measures should be taken immediately.

  • The Biden Administration must clearly and unequivocally back up President Biden’s statement on December 12 saying, “We want to see Ukraine win the war.”  America’s objective is a Ukrainian victory.  This message needs clear and consistent repetition from the highest levels of the U.S. Government and must be backed up with the policy decisions necessary to make this a reality.  There must be no equivocation with the President’s words.  We must have strategic clarity.  Lower-ranking American officials must stop avoiding the words “win”, “victory” and “Russian defeat”.
  • Now that funding is assured, the U.S. military should flood Ukraine with massive quantities of arms and ammunition as quickly as possible.  The Russian military is in a weak condition with poor equipment, training, morale and leadership but it has made gains in recent months due to Ukraine’s lack of ammunition. Russian forces need to feel “shock and awe” to understand that the battlefield has now changed, and that time is not on their side.  We need to begin deterring Russia against further aggression rather that assuring it that we seek to avoid “escalation”.  Rather than worrying about what Putin might do, Putin should worry about what we might do.
  • As part of this, the Biden Administration must lift all artificial and self-imposed limits on aid to Ukraine.  The U.S. should provide Ukraine with its longest-range ATACMS ballistic missiles, which can reach Sevastopol, the Kerch Strait Bridge and Russian logistical concentrations well behind the front lines. It should stop declaring Russian territory as “off limits” for Ukrainian targeting and instead urge Ukraine only to hit militarily relevant targets which is consistent with international law. It should declare already de-commissioned aircraft sitting in the Arizona desert as Excess Defense Articles and begin providing A-10 ground attack aircraft, F-16 combat aircraft and other airframes to Ukraine in order to build a properly scaled Ukrainian Air Force that can deny Ukrainian airspace to Russian aircraft.
  • The administration should work closely with Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria (our Black Sea NATO allies) to expand de-mining capacities and engage in freedom of navigation operations in the Black Sea. Under the Montreux Convention, non-belligerent nations can bring warships into the Black Sea for 21 days at a time. This should allow for a persistent presence in the region to deter Russian attacks on commercial shipping.
  • France, the United States, the UK and other NATO allies should form a ‘coalition of the willing’ to directly assist Ukrainian defense of its cities, civilians and non-military infrastructure from drone, missile and rocket attacks – just as they did recently with Israel. This can be done by establishing together with Ukraine, a ‘cordon sanitaire’ in Ukrainian airspace adjoining NATO. This could be done from NATO territory only, or also within Ukraine itself. Hitting unmanned vehicles that are only aimed at harming Ukrainian civilians and for example, their power plants, and present a risk to neighboring NATO territory does not require nations to engage Russian forces directly.  It only requires engaging in the humanitarian protection of civilians as well as preventing any accidental strikes on NATO territory. Such a cordon could extend hundreds of miles into Ukrainian airspace and increase the protection afforded to Lviv, Odesa and Kyiv while relieving the country’s overworked and under-armed missile crews.
  • The United States should begin to build consensus within NATO for increasing burden-sharing in support of Ukraine by turning the Ramstein military assistance process into a NATO clearing house mechanism and establishing a fund as proposed by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to provide consistent military support to Ukraine despite hiccups in U.S. and European processes. The United States should contribute to this fund but it should be based on the same percentages assigned to funding for other NATO budgets, i.e., a contribution of around 2%.
  • The United States should also begin building consensus within NATO for an invitation at the July Washington Summit for Ukraine to begin talks about its accession to NATO as soon as possible. Such an invitation is essential to tell Vladimir Putin that he will never defeat Ukraine, to help provide a Ukraine victory strategy and to lay the foundation for a future European peace settlement.
  • The U.S. Congress should move swiftly to approve a lend-lease facility for Ukraine up to $500 billion. U.S. assistance to Ukraine is necessary and appropriate but to avoid gaps in available funding in the future, Congress should pre-position authority for Ukraine to borrow from the U.S. for its defensive needs. This is how the United States saved Great Britain in World War II and it is entirely appropriate today in the case of Ukraine. Such a move would also signal to Putin that we can outlast and outspend Russia no matter what he does, so his adventure in Ukraine must come to an end.

The House of Representatives vote is a watershed but it does not assure victory and peace in and of itself.  It now must be followed by decisive action from the U.S. administration to bring about a Ukrainian victory and in doing so, to re-establish the conditions for permanent peace, prosperity and security across Europe and to re-establish deterrence on that continent, in the Middle East and Asia.

The consequences of failing to do so must not be underestimated because they could be dire.

Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network
The introduction is Mr. McConnell’s and does not necessarily represent the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN).