For weeks the House impeachment proceedings have kept Ukraine in the U.S. spotlight—for all the wrong reasons. Now, however, there is a very good reason for policymakers to turn their attention to that beleaguered nation.
On December 9, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris—part of a four-way summit seeking to end the war in Ukraine. Germany and France are the other two nations participating in the discussions.
This will be the first face-to-face meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders. It’s something that Zelensky has desired since his inauguration in late May, and the stakes are high.
The war in Ukraine has gone on for nearly six years now. A costly conflict, it has killed more than 13,000 people. It needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
The U.S. has demonstrated strong support for Ukraine since the earliest days of the war. It has contributed more than $1.5 billion in security assistance since 2014. Under the Obama administration, aid was restricted to non-lethal assistance, but the Trump administration has broadened support to include weaponry.
For example, the U.S. sold Kyiv more than 200 Javelin anti-tank missiles in December 2017, significantly boosting Ukraine’s defense capabilities. The sale of an additional 150 Javelins was approved last month.
Ukraine has also purchased two U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats, subsequently named in tribute to two cities in the eastern Donbas region, the location of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
But official support and public opinion are two separate things, and lately Ukraine has taken a hit in the court of U.S. public opinion. With its constant talk of bribery and corruption, the ongoing impeachment saga threatens to discourage continued strong U.S. support for Ukraine. American politicians and policymakers should not let that happen.
U.S. support for Ukraine, in any form, remains vital.
Russia is a constant threat. The common border between it and Ukraine stretches more than 1,280 miles. Moscow has already seized and illegally annexed Crimea, a highly strategic region of Ukraine. The hot war continues in the Donbas.
Moscow also disrupts Ukrainian life through disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks. In December 2015, for example, Russian hackers attacked Ukraine’s power grid, shutting down power for as many as 80,000 residents. In addition, early this year, Russia published fabricated news stories and used fake online accounts ahead of the Ukrainian presidential elections to undermine the democratic process.
As Zelensky and Putin head for the Paris summit, Washington must leave no doubt that domestic politics will have no effect on its commitment to a free Ukraine—that its support for those embattled people is as strong as ever.
That demonstration of support could take various forms: additional military aid or weapons sales, the appointment of a U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, or simply positive rhetoric about Ukraine by senior U.S. government officials.
Ukraine deserves U.S. support. It is a developing democracy that is actively working to fight corruption within its governmental institutions. In fact, it’s made a fair amount of progress over the last couple of years through its anti-corruption reforms.
U.S. support is especially important ahead of Zelensky’s meeting with Putin. Without it, Ukraine stands little chance, if any, against the multi-faceted attacks coming from its relentlessly aggressive neighbor.
This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner