The U.S. Is Entangled in Ukraine for the Long Haul
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was expected to be quick. It would take a few weeks, maybe, or even mere days for forces from Moscow to sweep into Kyiv. But Ukraine’s dogged self-defense soon upset those expectations, and, nine months into the conflict, U.S. military and financial aid to Ukraine appears to be an open-ended commitment. Even with Russia retreating from Kherson City and other areas of Ukraine, American guns and money will keep flowing to the nation for the foreseeable future.
President Joe Biden has already put some limits on what that commitment will entail. “So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked,” he wrote in The New York Times this past summer, “we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces.” Biden also wrote that U.S. aims stop well short of ousting Russian President Vladimir Putin, “encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” or “prolong[ing] the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”
Those constraints are welcome, but they aren’t enough to keep America from repeating foreign policy mistakes of the recent past. If the U.S.-Ukraine relationship is to continue as is, we need transparent documentation of how U.S. aid is used, a consistent effort to facilitate diplomacy, and serious consideration of when and why the U.S. role might have to change.
On the first count, we already have a model for the type of documentation needed. As Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) proposed in May, American humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine should be supervised by an inspector general, much like the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The SIGAR office was formed in 2008 and tasked with auditing reconstruction work in Afghanistan by investigating allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse; and taking on ad hoc inspection projects as needed.
SIGAR work did not always lead to accountability—on the contrary, The Washington Post‘s Afghanistan Papers, published a
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