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The Free World Must Stand With Ukraine

By Sen. John Thune

March 11, 2022

As the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues to escalate, you may have seen the wrenching picture of a Ukrainian family killed by Russian shelling – a mom and her two innocent children, struck down as they attempted to flee along a main evacuation route – an evacuation route that Russia intentionally attacked. Or you may have seen the pictures of the devastation after a maternity hospital fell victim to a Russian airstrike. These pictures and videos are heartbreaking, and the people of Ukraine are in my thoughts and prayers. I know they’re in yours, too.

The scenes in Ukraine are unreal. They are scenes that we thought had finally been left behind in the dust of European history, and in two short weeks, Vladimir Putin has wrought an unimaginable amount of devastation. The damage he has done will take years, if not decades, to rebuild. More than 2 million people have fled their homes and their communities, making this the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. These have been dark days for Ukraine, but the devastation has been met with remarkable determination.

This is Ukrainians’ fight, and they are not shrinking from it. The Washington Post recently reported that more than 66,000 Ukrainians who were outside the country have returned to answer President Zelensky’s call to arms. That’s 66,000 Ukrainians who could have sat in safety outside Ukraine who have returned to help defend their country. Outnumbered as they are, the Ukrainian people are standing fast, and they are slowing down and, in many places, holding off the Russians. Soldiers and civilians alike have taken up arms to defend their nation, and it’s clear that the spirit of Ukraine, now roused, will not be extinguished.

But, no matter the resolve of the Ukrainian people, Ukraine cannot hold out alone. Without military, intelligence, and humanitarian support from other free nations, Ukraine may fall. We can’t sit by and let that happen. While I believe the Biden administration was too slow to send aid to Ukraine and sanction Putin in the lead-up to Russia’s attack, significant military resources are now flowing to Ukraine from the United States and NATO partners, and Ukraine is imposing a heavy cost on its invaders. 

The United States did the right thing by banning American imports of Russian energy. Every dollar we send to Russia is a dollar that it can use to prosecute its war in Ukraine. Now we need to focus on developing our energy resources here at home – all of them, both conventional and alternative – to ensure that our nation never again has to depend on countries like Russia for essential energy supplies.

I recently heard directly from President Zelensky on a Zoom call, and he made a powerful appeal for help from the West.

We need to do everything we can to keep Ukraine in this fight – including helping to pave the way for Ukraine to get the air defense resources it needs.

After all that Ukraine has managed to do, it would be a tragedy to see the country lose its fight because the United States and other NATO countries could not agree on how to get the Ukrainians the defensive equipment they need. And, while we should be cautious about what Putin may choose to do as his losses grow and his off-ramps dwindle, the United States and NATO cannot allow Moscow to dictate our actions. To do would not only be to surrender Ukraine, but to give the green light to despotic governments the world over, from China to Iran.   

Ukrainians are fighting to be a free people in a free country, and I think their fight is very close to the hearts of the American people. We must do whatever we can to support them.