Jim Slattery: History will remember those in Congress now blocking aid to Ukraine | Opinion

In February 2022, Russia launched an unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This was the first military invasion in Europe since the defeat of Adolf Hitler in 1945. The Russians have been guilty of multiple war crimes in their brutal disregard for civilian lives, including widespread rape and torture, according to a recent United Nations report.

U.S. and NATO military experts thought Ukraine would be defeated by the much feared Russian military in a few weeks. Russian President Vladimir Putin thought he would occupy Kyiv quickly and the young president of Ukraine would flee along with his government, allowing Putin to have his way.

They were all wrong. Who will ever forget the report of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy telling President Joe Biden, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” when the U.S. offered to help him escape the Russian invaders?

The world has been inspired by the Churchillian courage of Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian military, who performed brilliantly while stopping the Russian advance on their nation’s capital city. This was not going to be a repeat of Budapest 1956 or Prague 1968.

Since February 2022, the Ukrainian military has pushed the Russians out of nearly 50% of the territory they occupied. This achievement surprised military experts around the world. In the last year, the Ukrainians have forced the Russian navy away from the strategically important Port of Odessa on the Black Sea. In the process, Ukraine has inflicted heavy losses on Russian forces, including the sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of their Black Sea Fleet. These naval victories enabled Ukraine to reopen the Port of Odessa and ship their massive grain supplies urgently needed to feed hungry people in Africa and around the world.

Ukraine’s military success over the last two years was made possible by the military assistance provided by the United States and our NATO allies, as well as the incredible resilience and courage of the Ukrainian people.

To date, military analysts believe Ukraine has destroyed more than 50% of the Russian conventional military capability including more than half of their armor. Amazingly, this has been accomplished without any U.S. combat troops and with less than 5% of our defense budget. From a strict military standpoint this is a tremendous achievement.

And American taxpayers should understand that about 60% of what is called aid to Ukraine is being spent with U.S. military contractors to replace old equipment being supplied to Ukraine.

In the last few months, the Ukrainians, who have demonstrated they are willing to fight the invading Russians to the death, have had to retreat because they were running low on ammunition. This is because of the fact that Congress has failed to approve additional military aid to Ukraine. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have insisted that aid be tied to legislation to secure our southern border. These are two different issues and should be voted on separately, as should aid to Israel.

Congress should vote immediately on aid to Ukraine and then stay in session until they reach a compromise on legislation to secure the border. There should be no further congressional recesses until this legislation has passed. There is already a bipartisan immigration bill that is awaiting a vote in the Senate that should be voted on in the House.

Ironically, there is a strong bipartisan majority in the House for aid to Ukraine, but Republican leadership there is blocking a vote on the aid package that passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote. If this sounds ridiculous, it is — especially given that brave Ukrainian freedom fighters are dying because they lack ammunition while Congress dithers.

This is a sad moment in American history. These amazing Ukrainians who are standing up to Putin’s aggression are fighting for the security of Europe, and our own. The least we should do is provide them the military assistance they need to defend their homeland against the Russian invaders.

Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and John McCain must be rolling over in their graves.

It is time for the House to vote on the bipartisan aid package that passed the Senate. All members should go on record so their constituents will know who wants to appease Putin, and who wants to stop him in his tracks. I hope they remember the history of Europe in the 1930s in the lead-up to World War II. Appeasement did not work then, and it will never work with dictators like Putin who understand only one thing — and that is force.

Jim Slattery represented Kansas’ 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 1995.