On Jan. 15, Republican voters in Iowa kicked off their presidential primary with the Iowa caucuses. On the same day, business elites, policymakers, and other opinion leaders convened at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to address the world’s toughest challenges.
On Jan. 22, Republican voters in New Hampshire will follow Iowa with their own primaries.
But what does the WEF in Davos have to do with voters in Des Moines, Iowa, and Dover, New Hampshire? If you are a Ukrainian or support a Ukrainian victory, potentially a lot.
While WEF attendees in Davos may not usually need much from Republican voters, they do today – continued US support for Ukraine. For weeks, additional military funding for Ukraine has been logjammed in Congress amid declining Republican support. But Republican candidate Nikki Haley has risen in the polls campaigning on the importance of continuing to support Ukraine. New Hampshire could be the deciding point for the viability of her candidacy.
Former UN Ambassador and 2024 presidential hopeful Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign event in The James Theater in Iowa City, Iowa, on January 13, 2024. Photo: MONTERROSA / AFP
As a former chief of staff to a member of House Republican leadership, I know that Republicans typically do not take their cues from “globalists” in Davos.
Similarly, I’ve spent months on the Ukrainian front lines, met with more than 70 members of Congress and their staff to discuss what I saw, and conducted in-depth polling of Republican primary voters on Ukraine. I know that Europe has a long way to go to effectively communicate what’s happening in Ukraine and why a Ukrainian victory is critical to US national security interests.
How Davos can influence US Republican support
WEF is a global forum, and this conflict is global in nature. Russia has begun using North Korean ballistic missiles, China has supplied them with components to build tanks and the Kremlin has recently stepped up its use of Iranian drones. Conversely, shortly after Hamas attacked Israel on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, Moscow hosted a summit for Hamas leaders and Iran. Our adversaries are deepening their channels of collaboration and at Davos, the world can show a united front.
For a week, the 2024 WEF will drive headlines in the US and around the world. Answering the concerns of voters in New Hampshire and Republicans in Congress can help build a pro-Ukraine constituency in the Republican party.
Participants of the World Economic Forum (WEF) are seen in silhouette in the Congress center on the opening of the annual meeting in Davos on January 15, 2024. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
There are a few key points that global leaders should make in Switzerland, whether at the Ukraine House Davos where much of these important discussions will take place, or on center stage of the WEF.
New Hampshire Republicans want to know that Europe cares more than the US about the war in their backyard. The Kiel Institute in Germany tracks international aid to Ukraine and shows that Europe surpassed the US as the top donor to Ukraine last summer.
Republican voters don’t know this. Americans need to see that Europeans are fully committed to standing up to Russian aggression for the long haul. At the same time, European leaders should reaffirm their intent to meet their NATO defense commitments, a long-time criticism made by Republican foreign policy leaders.
Almost eight years ago, Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary by saying he would build a wall on the southern border and have Mexico pay for that wall. The world now can cripple Putin’s warfighting machine and have Russia pay for the reconstruction.
Senator Risch, the lead Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has authored the REPO for Ukrainians Act which would reaffirm the president’s authority to seize Russian sovereign assets frozen in the US and transfer them to Ukraine for reconstruction. But the US only has a small portion of the nearly $350 billion in Russians assets currently seized worldwide. Much of the assets are in Belgium, Switzerland and other European countries.
US President Joe Biden recently signaled his support for the REPO Act. A united front at Davos, showing progress on the use of these funds for reconstruction, sends a clear message to Republican voters: Ukraine's rebuilding won't solely rely on US taxpayers.
Lastly, European leaders at Davos must clearly lay out the threat to the US economy and security were Ukraine to fall. An emboldened Putin would control trade in the Black Sea and threaten trade in the Baltic Sea, making the Houthis aggression in the Red Sea look like child’s play. Even worse, Russia would be staring down the barrel of a rifle at nine NATO countries. Leaders in Davos need to illustrate to New Hampshire voters the hundreds of billions of dollars in global trade lost for want of $62 billion from Congress.
This pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, shows Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg, on Dec. 25, 2023.
Should Putin invade a NATO country, US troops would likely be called upon to fight in Europe for a third time. Sending weapons to Ukraine today is a far better option than sending American sons and daughters to Europe tomorrow.
At this year’s WEF, attendees have an opportunity to alter the debate over Ukraine in the US. And they should do their best to do so. After all, what happens in New Hampshire doesn’t stay in New Hampshire.
Steven E. Moore is a former Republican leadership chief of staff in the House of Representatives who has been in Ukraine since day five of the full-scale invasion. His NGO, the Ukraine Freedom Project, delivers humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian front and provides policymakers with firsthand, data-driven information about the situation in Ukraine.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
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