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The Very High Stakes of Failing to Help Ukraine

Since Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, a rare consensus has formed in Washington around this conviction: America must provide military support to Ukraine’s resistance. Three administrations and large majorities of both parties in Congress have consistently held that President Vladimir Putin’s aggression cannot be tolerated. When has such deep solidarity last occurred on any difficult subject?

Now members of Congress are arguing that we must turn away from spending more money to help Ukraine, choosing instead to focus on our own needs, pursuing our own interests. This is a false choice.

The choices facing America are always based on the same foundation: what best serves our nation. The choice is not America first or something else first. America is always first. The real question, in this complicated and uncertain world, is what course of action will most likely serve our core national interests — security and economic prosperity.

Those interests are inextricably linked to the strength of our global alliances and the international system of law and cooperation in which American democracy survives and prospers. And the strength of those networks, in turn, depends on our role as a trusted ally and friend, on our credibility and — frankly — on our virtue.

In the 80 years that the Soviet Union and then Russia has been our strategic competitor, the United States has spent an incalculable amount to defend ourselves. We have spent trillions of dollars on America’s nuclear defense alone, with primarily one other nuclear-armed state in mind.

Ukraine’s effort to defend itself against Mr. Putin’s advance has degraded Russia’s military more than anyone thought possible when the full invasion of Ukraine began just over two years ago. In blunt dollar terms, helping Ukraine in that defense is by far the least expensive way to weaken Russia’s military and discourage Russian aggression, thereby protecting ourselves and our allies.

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