Boris Johnson’s visit to Washington last week was a major event on Capitol Hill. The New York-born former prime minister is an instantly recognizable figure here, with celebrity status among many who follow British politics. His profile is far greater than that of Rishi Sunak, who is relatively unknown outside of the DC Beltway.
It was a smart move by Boris to meet with the new Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, and a recognition that the balance of power is shifting away from the Left following last November’s midterm elections.
British conservatives need to engage more with American conservatives in order to advance a robust transatlantic agenda. All too often British ministers and MPs are sent to meet with President Biden’s officials and Democrats, ignoring the true friends of Britain in the U.S. Rishi Sunak could learn from this.
Boris’s message to the world’s superpower was loud and clear: the U.S. and the free world must stand with Ukraine and help it defeat Russia. The appeal was widely applauded here, especially among conservatives.
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There is a false narrative growing in European capitals that with the Republicans now in charge, Congress will be opposed to supporting Ukraine. Nothing could be further from the truth. In recent weeks my colleagues and I at the Heritage Foundation have discussed the war in Ukraine with dozens of conservative senior congressional aides, all of whom believe that the U.S. must support Ukraine’s fight to defend its borders and self-determination.
Many Republicans on Capitol Hill have correctly pointed out that the Biden administration was slow to act to support Ukraine when the Russians invaded, and that Biden did nothing to deter the Russians from launching their barbaric invasion. They strongly condemned the hugely controversial call last October from progressive members of Congress for the U.S. to pressure Ukraine into negotiating with Russia, which the White House later had to disavow.
The reality is that Republicans have been far more proactive than their political opponents in urging the U.S. to send the weaponry Ukraine needs to win the war. The Biden regime has been reactive—often only moving after significant Congressional and international pressure.
Conservatives have been among the most robust voices in Washington calling on Biden to act decisively and in a fiscally responsible manner, providing a clear strategy for helping Ukraine win the war. The stakes are incredibly high. If Vladimir Putin prevails, he will go on to threaten our allies in eastern Europe, including the Baltic States. And on the world stage, China’s communist rulers would be emboldened by Western weakness and encouraged to invade Taiwan.
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One year on from the start of Putin’s conquest, the Biden White House still lacks a concrete plan to help Ukraine achieve victory. Conservatives on Capitol Hill will not support the kind of vast, unfunded spending packages passed by the previous Democrat-run Congress. Instead, they are seeking specifically targeted funding requests for vital weaponry and military equipment, and calling on America’s European allies, especially Germany, to do more.
Polls show that a majority of Americans still back U.S. support for Ukraine, especially through military assistance. But that support has been falling in recent months, and Americans are deeply concerned about the staggering levels of federal debt, now standing at more than $31 trillion (£26 trillion). They want to see accountability from the White House for how taxpayers’ dollars are spent. And they want NATO partners to bear a bigger part of the burden for the security of Europe.
As Boris Johnson will have seen, support for Ukraine is not a partisan political issue, but an imperative strategic interest for the U.S. America’s conservative leaders want to see the Ukrainians inflict a historic defeat on a deadly adversary of the West. At the same time, they are demanding a well-defined strategy from the White House for ensuring that this happens as swiftly as possible, with a guarantee that American support is delivered more efficiently.
This piece originally appeared in the Telegraph