Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed a joint session of Congress on Thursday and received several bipartisan standing ovations as he thanked the U.S. Congress for their generosity.
With the $45 billion of proposed spending on Ukraine in the $1.7 trillion omnibus government funding bill, the total given to Mr. Zelenkyy’s government since Russia’s unprovoked invasion will be north of $100 billion. In less than a year. With zero congressional oversight.
There may be no congressional investigations but the Biden administration is doing a little sleuthing of its own, trying to find out how U.S. technology ended up in Iranian drones.
But this was not the congress’s business — at least while Democrats ran the House.
One hundred billion dollars is a lot of money even when referring to government expenditures. And Zelenskyy has been very short on specifics when it comes to where much of it is going. We know where the weapons are going, but how about the destination of “humanitarian aid”? Or “economic aid”? Ukraine’s massive corruption has been improving in recent years but it’s still in the lower third of the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.
“Most of my constituents do not wish to have their money sent to Ukraine, especially not without oversight or an audit,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) told Fox News.
Zelenskyy said that U.S. support is crucial not only for Ukraine’s victory but also to show Russia and China that “no one can succeed in breaking national borders” or committing atrocities. And he made a direct appeal for more U.S. military aid.
“Ukraine never asked that American soldiers fight on our land instead of us,” said Zelenskyy. “I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.”
“More cannons and shells are needed,” said the president. “Russia can stop its aggression if it wanted, but you can speed up our victory.”
Whether you support or oppose aid to Ukraine, the American taxpayer has a fundamental right to know where that $100 billion is going. But pro-war partisans are framing opposition to more aid for any reason as supporting Putin.
“Putin’s Useful Idiots: Right Wingers Lose It Over Zelensky Visit” reads the headline in The Bulwark. Apparently not thinking is a virtue among these people.
Whatever the reason, the anti-Ukraine animus on the right is quite real and widespread. (When journalist Bari Weiss, who has a largely “anti-woke” following, retweeted a Hanukkah greeting from Zelensky, the responses from her followers in the thread were mostly hostile.) But right now, it also smells of desperation. Ukraine’s cause is still massively popular in the United States, with two-thirds of Americans supportive of sending money and arms. Disingenuous laments about the poor Ukrainians exploited by American and European globalists ring hollow and false when the vast majority of Ukrainians are so clearly determined to resist the invasion. And Zelensky, as the smarter among the aid opponents, like Ungar-Sargon, can see, is a genuine hero: patriotic, incredibly courageous and charismatic, and a speaker so compelling that even congressional right-wingers who initially refused to join in the standing ovations (including Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Andrew Clyde) finally rose up during the last portions of his speech.
We can’t cut Ukraine off now — not when they have the Russian invaders on the run. And Zelenskyy and Biden are right; we can’t afford to allow Putin to sweep the board in Ukraine. It would certainly whet his appetite for further conquests in Poland and other states of the old Soviet empire.
But you can bet if the shoe were on the other foot, Democrats would be demanding oversight and an audit. And that’s exactly what Republicans should do when they take power.