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    The U.S. should continue to aid Ukraine, but with robust accountability measures
    • February 22, 2024

    In his book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman wrote that “the world is an interconnected economic integration, which supersedes ideological and political differences, and no player would likely dare to jeopardize that arrangement.”

    Then along came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is not one of the NATO countries. The U.S. has no obligation to defend them. But for several logical reasons, U.S. taxpayer money is being sent by the billions in hopes it can help save Ukraine from Russian aggression.

    The attack of Russia on the sovereign state of Ukraine poses a significant challenge to the international community’s dedication to upholding the global order.

    Much of the world looks up to the U.S. as a beacon of freedom, and President Joe Biden’s response to Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, a sovereign state, has shown strong leadership. He has helped enable Ukraine to defend itself.

    But Congress is divided on whether to continue U.S. financial support or impose a price tag on it. The Senate voted 70 to 29 to approve the emergency national security funding package, which includes $60 billion in war aid for Ukraine alongside funding for Israel, Taiwan, and humanitarian aid for Gaza.

    Eighteen Republicans backed the legislation after former president Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election, criticized the bill on social media by saying that the foreign aid should take the form of a loan.

    Although I am not a fan of Donald Trump, I must agree with his stance. This approach makes sense for several reasons. My birthplace, Afghanistan, serves as a case in point.

    During the past 20 years, the U.S. poured billions of dollars into Afghanistan to support the pro-American government of Ashraf Ghani, and it all turned out to be wasted when we ultimately witnessed the catastrophic collapse of the Afghan government in August of 2021.

    A significant factor was the lack of oversight and accountability in Afghanistan and America, which resulted in waste, corruption and inadequate maintenance of the equipment and armor received from the U.S. I know this because I was there, working as an interpreter for the NATO/International Security Assistance Force, both during and after the war.

    We saw a lack of supervision that enabled U.S. taxpayers’ money to end up in the accounts of corrupt Afghan military and civilian officials. I recall that in several meetings between American and Afghan army officials, Afghan commanders complained about soldiers and subordinates ignoring or even talking back to them, invoking the notion that they are paid by the Americans rather than the Afghan government. Why should the Afghan rank and file be obeying their Afghan commanders? This mentality cascaded into a lack of progress on the battlefield and low morale.

    The notion that the U.S. should provide military equipment, air shelter during combat, and pay for various expenses was eroding the Afghans’ own self-reliance, and they had come to depend on Americans.

    The Ukraine army could not escape the same scenario; it’s what I call free-for-all fatigue or the curse of dependence. Some Ukraine officials already stand accused of funneling financial aid into their private accounts, and Several top Ukrainian officials were fired amid a ballooning corruption scandal in the biggest upheaval in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government since Russia’s invasion began 11 months ago.

    I am not arguing that the U.S. should not help, but rather that they should help with accountability. It should be reciprocal.

    Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said, “I mean, why shouldn’t Ukraine, which is mineral rich with the things that we need as a free country, or for that matter, frozen Russian assets that we have, why wouldn’t we make those things available to the American taxpayer to replenish the generosity/” 

    Another option, as Max Boot writes in the Washington Post, is first to send Ukraine the estimated $300 billion in frozen Russian assets held in the West, primarily in a Belgian clearinghouse. The European Union and the Group of Seven recently agreed to send Ukraine the profits from Russian holdings, which could amount to $4 billion this year. But it would be far more effective to send the entire amount to make clear to Putin that aggression does not pay — literally.

    Trump is right to say that the Europeans should also help themselves, and his call is getting momentum. We should help Ukraine because it wants to be free and join the Western world. They don’t want to live in constant fear of being overtaken by Russia.

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    Unless Congress passes the Defense Department’s supplemental funding request, Ukraine will not be able to defend itself against Russian aggression, a senior defense official told the news media this week.

    If we send military aid, we’ll spend some billions of dollars now to invest in peace and security for the future. There are those who argue that U.S. aid to Ukraine serves only to prolong a deadly conflict that has already cost both sides hundreds of thousands of casualties. But let’s keep in mind that appeasement is not the right policy. As Winston Churchill famously said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

    Helping Ukraine is a win-win situation. It’s an investment in the future of freedom that will assure U.S. allies that the U.S. is not just a fair-weather friend. Helping Ukraine is a clear message to Putin that the U.S. stands with its allies and will stand up to Putin’s aggression

    But the Ukrainians who have bravely endured Putin’s ruthless invasion of their country should not expect all aid to be given for free. As author Sebastian Douglas famously said, “Nothing in this world is free; not even freedom itself.”

    Wahab Raofi is an independent writer who focuses on global affairs. He is a graduate of Kabul Law School and worked at various levels for the Ministry of Justice in his native Afghanistan. He immigrated to the United States, has a home in California, and worked with the NATO/International Security Assistance Force as an interpreter in Afghanistan. 

    ​ Orange County Register