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We must support Ukraine: Future generations will thank us

It's American weapons that have most degraded Putin's war machine

Members of the Siberian battalion of the Ukrainian military take part in a training exercise near Kyiv on April 10.
Members of the Siberian battalion of the Ukrainian military take part in a training exercise near Kyiv on April 10. (Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images)

In the spring of 2018, I had the honor of meeting a group of Alabama veterans at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The group included brave soldiers from the Vietnam and Korean wars, as well as three who fought in WWII. It was surreal to be with members of the “Greatest Generation” while admiring a memorial in their honor. As we stood within the memorial’s oval plaza framed by granite arches representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, I could only imagine their pride in witnessing this monument to their sacrifices in the fight for freedom far from America’s shores.

The Greatest Generation shaped not only the course of history but also solidified America’s place in the world. Today, as we honor the passing of this generation, we risk losing not only their lived experiences but also their deep commitment to America’s highest ideals. It’s been a decade since the last WWII veterans left the halls of Congress; I wonder what leaders like the late Republican Sen. Bob Dole, who was wounded fighting against Nazi tyranny in Europe, would think of today’s Congress failing to come to the aid of an ally in its fight against an authoritarian, expansionist Russia.

As we bid farewell to the Greatest Generation, we find ourselves confronting a sobering reality — a loss not only of individuals and heroes but of a collective sense of history and America’s indispensable role in upholding the rules-based international order. This was a role that just didn’t fall to us as a great superpower, but it is one we chose for ourselves.

The peace secured in Europe by the Greatest Generation was shattered with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack of Ukraine, unleashing a horrifying and devastating war in the largest invasion of a European country since WWII. Putin’s goals in Ukraine remain clear and unchanged: The elimination of Kyiv’s political independence and its submission to Moscow’s authoritarian control, its demilitarization and the prevention of its integration into Europe.

If we were to abandon our friends in Ukraine, the United States would essentially be abdicating its role as the leader of the free world. After all, it was the United States that created the institutions and norms that have underpinned the rules-based international order for the past 80 years. We simply cannot now turn away from the architecture of peace and security we built.

Ukraine has proven it has the resolve to fight for its right to exist as a free, sovereign nation. Ukraine has not asked for American boots on the ground. It has not asked for cash that might line bureaucrats’ coffers. Rather, Kyiv has asked for weapons to defend itself against relentless Russian airstrikes and a grinding ground assault. It has asked for humanitarian aid to survive Russia’s ruthless attacks on civilian life. It has asked for us to help them stand for democracy and as a bulwark against Putin’s aspirations to restore perceived Russian glory.

We should be clear-eyed about Putin’s intentions: Ukraine is his gateway for expansion into Eastern Europe, threatening the security of NATO allies. Does anyone really believe Putin will stop his aggression if allowed to annex Ukraine? All of world history proves otherwise. No one should doubt that a less secure Europe is a threat to America’s national security. 

America is not alone, either. We have rallied support for Ukraine among our Western allies, and we will continue to do so. But it has primarily been U.S.-supplied weaponry that has degraded Russia’s war machine and punctured Putin’s claims of Russia’s inevitable strategic victory. Our investments in upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty have proven to Putin and other would-be aggressors, like China with its eye toward Taiwan, that the defenders of democracy are more united — and stronger — than ever. They’ve shown that America stands by its commitments to uphold peace, security and democracy.

So why are some willing to throw that all away and allow Putin to outlast Western support, finish the elimination of Ukraine and expand his authoritarian rule through territorial domination?

Certainly, in today’s world of cascading crises, it’s tempting to turn inward and only focus on addressing domestic problems. But it’s not a binary choice; we can’t lose sight of the fact that America’s strength and security stems in large part from our commitment to safeguarding the cause of democracy, freedom and the rules-based international order that the Greatest Generation fought for.  

By passing aid for Ukraine, the United States can recommit to our role as a global champion of stability, security and democracy. Ultimately, America’s greatness lies not only in our ability to address internal challenges, but also in our willingness to lead the world toward a brighter, more peaceful future for generations to come.

Doug Jones served as United States senator from Alabama from 2018 to 2021. A Democrat, he served on the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees. He was previously United States attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 1997 to 2001.

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