President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during their...

President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, in February. Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service

Most of the Republican and conservative criticism targeting President Joe Biden’s handling of Russia’s war in Ukraine has been from a “dovish” or at least isolationist perspective.

Some on the right argue that the money sent to Ukraine should be spent on domestic priorities and that Ukraine’s defense has nothing to do with our national interest. Others say that sending weapons merely prolongs a senseless and mutually destructive conflict and that we should be encouraging peace instead — even if it means Vladimir Putin gets to keep some illegally seized territories.

But there is a hawkish Republican critique of Biden’s Ukraine policy as well: namely, that we’re not doing enough to help Ukraine’s war effort. This position was articulated earlier this week in The Wall Street Journal by John Bolton, onetime national security adviser to President Donald Trump. Bolton faults the Biden administration in particular for not sending the weapons Ukraine needs to win the war, such as long-range missiles and F-16 fighter jets.

Should the Biden administration be doing more — and are there Republicans who could push it in that direction?

Bolton is certainly not alone in making the argument that U.S. aid to Ukraine is insufficient and coming too slowly. Many Ukrainian officials have complained about it, though usually in muted tones so as not to cause tensions with its most important ally. Many Ukrainian and expatriate Russian analysts agree: Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov, who currently lives in the U.S., has published a long article on his website faulting the Biden administration for having “developed cold feet” when it comes to ending the war.

The hawkish critics cite various reasons for what they see as the administration’s timidity. Some, such as Bolton, say that Biden and his advisers fear escalation — specifically, nuclear escalation — if Russia is pushed too far. Others, such as Kasparov, say that the administration is too wedded to now-outmoded geopolitical strategies that include negotiations with Putin.

Still others say that U.S. leadership, and many leaders in Western Europe, fear a too-decisive victory for Ukraine: They believe it could cause not only a precipitous collapse of the Putin regime but the dissolution of the Russian Federation and a series of local crises and wars in a territory where nuclear weapons are still deployed. And there is also a view that the U.S. wants to prolong the war in order to drain Russia economically and militarily.

All these explanations, of course, are sheer speculation. We would also do well to remember that there are obstacles to stepped-up aid — from shortages of military hardware to the political challenges of further increasing our commitments to a foreign war in a highly polarized society that is a little over a year away from a presidential election.

In any case, there is little doubt that the frustrating slowness of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and its staggering human cost, is due partly to undersupply of weapons. Even so, the Ukrainians are making progress.

The Biden administration should speed up the delivery of fighter jets and finally make the decision to send long-range missiles. Russian nuclear bluster looks increasingly empty, and negotiations in which the Kremlin is prepared to offer meaningful concessions will happen only when Russia is staring defeat in the face. Unfortunately, in our current political landscape, there is zero chance that the GOP leadership in Congress will use its clout to push for a better deal for Ukraine.

Where are the Republican hawks when you need them?

Opinions expressed by Cathy Young, a writer for the Bulwark, are her own.


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