12dc Edwards Qa1 Mthv Facebookjumbo.jpg

Back From Ukraine, a House Republican Makes the Case for More Aid

Knowing a vote on another aid package for Ukraine loomed in his future, Representative Chuck Edwards, a freshman Republican, spent part of last week traveling across the country to see for himself how American dollars would be used in the nation’s fight to fend off Russian invaders.

What he witnessed as he and a bipartisan group of lawmakers traveled across Ukraine over four days — a dozen air raids, an onslaught of drone attacks, and the sites of gruesome atrocities against civilians — left Mr. Edwards and his colleagues vowing to press Speaker Mike Johnson to push forward on a measure to provide more aid for the war effort.

They told President Volodymyr Zelensky that their visit had given them a “new appreciation” of what his country was facing, Mr. Edwards said, and that they would lobby Mr. Johnson to make sure that American aid did not dry up.

The trip came at a critical time for Ukraine aid on Capitol Hill, as Mr. Johnson searches for a path to advance a fresh funding package for the embattled nation amid vehement opposition from his right flank. The fate of the effort rests in part on mainstream Republicans like Mr. Edwards, who has previously voted in favor of aid to Ukraine, who are willing to join Democrats in lending their support to the cause.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Edwards, who last month easily fended off a primary challenge to his right from a candidate who opposed U.S. aid to Ukraine, discussed the urgency of backing the war effort there, what he saw during his trip, and the difficult politics of the issue.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Why did you decide to go to Ukraine?

The news is really falling off in America on what’s taking place in Ukraine. It’s taken a back seat to so many other things, other issues that are important here in the country. And knowing that Ukraine is running up against a deadline, I thought that it was important for me to go over and participate in a fact-finding mission and get a better firsthand account of actually what’s taking place over there, as we approach the critical and important decision in whether or not — or how — the U.S. should assist in Ukraine.

What were your major takeaways?

At the highest level, the conclusion that I came up with is that Ukraine is either going to continue to be a democracy or it will fall to the hands of a Marxist, socialist, murderous dictatorship. And it cannot — it will not — remain a democracy if the United States doesn’t intervene.

Ukraine has a good base of strong men and women that are willing to step up and defend their country. They don’t have the resources to do it. President Zelensky told me of a number of brigades — I won’t quote the number, but a number of brigades — that have men but no equipment. They’re taking 10 Russian shells to every one that they can return. And if they don’t receive equipment and ammunition soon, their democracy will crumble.

The stories of the inhumaneness that’s taken place over there — it’s very brutal and horrendous. And the United States has always stood for freedom and liberty and justice. And it would be a travesty for us to take a back seat and allow that to happen. What I think that I see taking place in Ukraine right now is very much what took place prior to World War II.

Was there a specific story that really stood out to you?

In the village of Bucha, 136 elderly people, women and children were crammed into a very small basement of a school. It was dark, dank, moldy, musty, nasty. And they were forced to live there for 27 days. People were dying. They were piling bodies in the corner.

I had the opportunity to stand in that corner and visualize dead, decaying bodies. And one story that stuck out in particular was where a woman said there was a 7-year-old child in that basement that was clearly dying. He was about to be among the deceased. He was sick. He was feverish. He was suffocating. He was panicking. The prisoners in that basement went upstairs pounding on the door and gotten the attention of the Russian soldiers and the one that came to the door’s reply was: “Let him die. This is war.”

I think that that statement alone illustrates the cruelty of what’s taking place now and why Putin must be stopped. And he’s made it clear he’s not going to stop at Ukraine.

His intent is very clear, and the world’s watching. Our enemies are watching. They’ve watched the horrendous withdrawal from Afghanistan. They watched the Biden White House sit on its heels and allow this invasion of Ukraine to take place. China is certainly watching to see how we will respond. North Korea is watching. America has the opportunity right now to show that we still are a superpower. That we’re not going to allow bullies to pick on those folks in the world that cannot defend themselves.

There have been questions as to whether Speaker Johnson was even going to allow Ukraine aid to receive a vote in the House. Did you have a message to President Zelensky about what the House was likely to do?

I can’t speak for the House in general. But the message to President Zelensky from the six members of the congressional delegation that went over there is, that we had gained a new appreciation of the duress that the country is under, and that we would be returning to the United States and trying to convince Speaker Johnson and others to move forward and support Ukraine.

I am curious what you hear from your constituents at home about this and how you have this conversation with them. Your primary challenger was against sending aid to Ukraine — and you stood up and made the argument for it.

I’ve polled the people in my district. And they’re in favor, three-to-one, of helping Ukraine. The few that are against, I don’t believe are totally opposed to helping, but they insist that we need to pay as much attention to what’s going on right here in America. We need to secure our own border; that we need to pay attention to the debt load that we have in America right now.

So I don’t believe they’re adamantly opposed. They’re just insistent that we also deal with our own problems — and they’re right. I believe that we can still continue to do both. Joe Biden absolutely needs to reverse the 64 executive actions that he has taken that relaxed and helped open our border. That can be dealt with as a separate issue.

I believe that there’s a way that we can responsibly help Ukraine. There’s Russian assets that can be seized. One of the key takeaways that I had after leaving Ukraine and meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, is that U.S. sanctions against Russia and world sanctions against Russia are not working. Any war is fought on many fronts. Choking off Putin’s profits — oil profits, banking profits — would be another front where we could fight this war.

Your argument for why the U.S. should continue to send aid to Ukraine strikes me as a very traditional G.O.P. argument, but it’s not the prevailing view in your party right now. Do you feel you’re in the minority on this issue?

I believe most of the conference, and most of Congress will side with my argument. I believe that America is capable of walking and chewing gum.

We’re to the point now where we have to do that, because the situation in Ukraine has become so dire. We don’t have the luxury of waiting until we fix all of our problems. We’re going to have to work on them simultaneously.

Source link

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *