Heather Cox Richardson
The “Ghost of Kyiv,” an ace pilot who heartened the Ukrainian resistance by shooting down a number of Russian aircraft on the first day of Russia’s invasion, was real after all. According to The Times of London, he was Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29 years old, and was killed in action on March 13.
That extraordinary Ukrainian resistance, reinforced as we now know it was by U.S. intelligence and the unified support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other allies and partners, thwarted Russian president Vladimir Putin’s plans for a quick annexation of Ukrainian land. Continuing pressure, combined with Putin’s refusal to stop his attack, means that Russia has thrown away decades of economic development and its global standing.
Today, Russia avoided defaulting on its debt by making a last-minute payment in dollars from reserves outside Russia, a move forced on it by economic sanctions. This will speed the draining of the country’s financial resources. The country has been able to continue to function and to fund its military in part because of about $800 million a day in revenue it pulls in from selling oil and gas to Europe.
It appears this is about to change. On Wednesday, Germany dropped its opposition to a European Union ban on oil and gas imports, enabling the 27 nations in the European Union to hammer out an agreement that adopts a phased end to shipments of Russian oil and gas. E.U. ambassadors expect to sign the agreement next week. “More important than the oil embargo is the signal that Europe is united and taking back the initiative,” Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group, told New York Times reporters Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Thomas Gibbons-Neff.
Meanwhile, the House passed legislation to update the March 1941 Lend-Lease Act, passed to enable the U.S. to loan or lease military supplies to any country whose defense the president believed was vital to the defense of the United States. The original law enabled the U.S. to send supplies to Britain’s defense without joining the war directly. Yesterday’s update allows the government to skip some rules and move weapons more quickly. It will increase pressure on Putin by demonstrating that the U.S. is going to continue supporting Ukraine.
The Senate passed the measure by a voice vote, and there was overwhelming bipartisan support for it in the House, with only 10 Representatives, all Republicans, voting against it. Those ten included Representatives Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Dan Bishop (R-NC), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and others who also voted against last week’s House resolution “expressing support for Moldova’s democracy, independence, and territorial integrity” in the face of Russian threats.
Today, Ukrainian defense reporter Illia Ponomarenko tweeted: “What America is doing now in terms of sending weapons to Ukraine is a masterpiece of logistics. In all regards, starting from bureaucratic hurdles.”
President Joe Biden yesterday asked Congress for $33 billion for Ukraine—on top of the $13.6 billion authorized so far—to last until September 30, the end of the fiscal year. In his letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) requesting the funds, Biden noted that the administration expects NATO allies and E.U. partners jointly to be sending even greater sums to the support of Ukraine but said Russian aggression would “require a substantial additional investment on our part.”
Biden added, “What I want to make clear to the Congress and the American people is this: the cost of failing to stand up to violent aggression in Europe has always been higher than the cost of standing firm against such attacks. That is as it always has been, and as it always will be.” He was referring to the misguided attempt to appease Adolf Hitler by accepting Germany’s 1938 annexation of the Sudetenland rather than resisting. Appeasing dictators never stops them; it simply emboldens them to increase their demands. And by the time the European war broke out in 1939, Hitler had significantly strengthened Germany’s forces.
Other countries are also continuing their support for Ukraine. About 8000 troops from the British army are deploying to eastern Europe over the summer to join in exercises with NATO troops and those from the Joint Expeditionary Force, which includes Finland and Sweden. Those two countries are currently not members of NATO but are considering joining because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland and Russia share a border of more than 800 miles. Yesterday, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that, should they ask to join, they “will be warmly welcomed and I expect the process to go quickly.”
Spain this week shipped to Ukraine hundreds of tons of heavy transport vehicles and ammunition. An unconfirmed report says that Ukrainian soldiers opening the shipment found Spanish sausages among the grenade launchers with a card from the queen that read: “I wish you victory! With love, Leti[z]ia.”
Countries supporting Ukraine have begun to talk not just of defending Ukraine, but seeing Ukraine “win,” and weakening Russia’s ability to meddle in the affairs of other countries.
So would one think that those voting against helping Ukraine are traitors to the US and should be treated as such.