The narrative coming out of the White House as recently as last Tuesday continues to solely cast blame upon Congressional Republicans – especially Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA), for not passing a $60 billion supplemental budget to continue funding the Ukraine war.

There is some truth to the narrative. However, it conveniently leaves out probably the most significant point - President Joe Biden does not have a plan to win the war, other than to simply to keep arming Ukraine to defend itself. The US Army’s General George Patton gave his opinion on that course of action: “Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.” 

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Biden’s avowed strategy to “stand for liberty and freedom today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes” has become a toxic recipe for just another “forever war.” A war that Speaker Johnson compared to a recent conflict, “We need to know that Ukraine would not be another Afghanistan.”

When Biden entered the White House, his stated goal was “ending the forever wars that had consumed America for two decades and instead focusing on domestic priorities.” The war in Ukraine enters its third year in February; the southern US border remains unsecured as illegal migrants and fentanyl enter the country unabated.

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On the surface, the House Speaker appears to be holding the President to his word. But this is Washington – and Ukraine has become political leverage for both Democrats and Republicans to play against one another as they pursue partisan agendas. The 2024 Presidential Election only exacerbates the crisis.

There is common ground though. The President and House Speaker are on the same page regarding no more forever wars.

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There are two solutions – give Ukraine the weapons and ammunition they need to win the war or abandon the effort. The latter is not an option – the US would lose all credibility, putting Europe in peril and their leadership in NATO at risk.

A $60 billion blank check would equate to what then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said concerning the passage of Obama Care in 2010, “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it.” Republicans will not let that happen – they are demanding to see a plan, a strategy to win, the weapons and ammunition required, and an end state for Ukraine. The President does not have one.

But holding Ukraine funding hostage to border security and support to Israel in their war against Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, is no better. Bundling the three is unmanageable. The attack on the US Tower 22 base in Jordan over the weekend aggravates the situation.

Both sides are derelict in their duties. While they continue their political jockeying – Ukrainian civilians are being killed in Russian missile and drone attacks, while Ukrainian soldiers in defensive positions fight off relentless ‘meat assaults’ in Avdiivka, wondering if they will have enough ammunition to fend off the next wave.

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Killing more Russians will not win the war. Over 383,180 have reportedly been eliminated to date, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is prepared to conscript and send more. Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces General Valerii Zaluzhny acknowledged that reality in November: “That was my mistake. In any other country such casualties would have stopped the war.”

Meanwhile, as Washington struggles to come up with a solution, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his generals are “doggedly forging ahead and boldly implementing new military tactics” throughout the depth of the battlespace – to include Russia.

In the absence of U.S. funding, Zelensky returned to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and travelled to European capitals to solicit additional support to stay in the fight. He came away with a few major wins – Ukraine entered into a security co-operation agreement with the United Kingdom, secured $8.5 billion in military aid for 2024 from Germany, secured a pledge from Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to “make his country the ‘most reliable’ backer of Ukraine,” while France committed to deliver an additional 40 long-range SCALP-EG missiles and, in Paris last week, stood-up an “artillery coalition” of 23 nations to address Ukraine’s ammunition shortfall.

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And now the European Union is set to vote on a €50 billion assistance package for Ukraine after advising Hungary it would evoke Article 7 – suspending the right to vote on EU decisions – should Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán continue to block the vote.  

Europe has stepped up, so where is the American plan?

Unfortunately, it is helplessly linked to a failing bipartisan southern border deal that Speaker Johnson announced was “dead on arrival” last Friday.

It is not the primary responsibility of Congress to present military plans to the White House. That responsibility is on the President of the United States, as the Commander-in-Chief, and his National Security team. The responsibility of Congress is to fund the plan when it is submitted.

Three powerful Republicans penned a plan in November 2023 entitled, “Proposed Plan for Victory in Ukraine.” The proposal was submitted by Michael McCaul (R-TX), Mike Rogers (R-AL), and Mike Turner (R-OH), Chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, House Armed Services Committee, and the House Permanent Selection Committee on Intelligence respectively.

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The proposal calls for the President to “present a credible plan for victory and arm Ukraine with the weapons it needs to win as soon as possible.” They have even identified “the longest-range variant of ATACMS, F-16s and sufficient quantities of cluster munitions, artillery, air defenses, and armor to make a difference on the battlefield” as part of the solution. 

It is not an unreasonable request.  Defensive weapons cannot win wars – and Ukraine lacks the offensive capabilities right now needed to decisively expel Russian forces from the Donbas and Crimean Peninsula.

Washington urgently needs a commonsense compromise. Speaker Johnson must decouple southern border security from Ukraine funding and President Biden must present a plan to Congress on Ukraine and agree to work with Republicans on a comprehensive immigration plan that includes border security. Americans and Ukrainians deserve far better leadership from Washington.

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The President needs to embrace and build off the Republican proposal, assemble his Flag Officers – active and retired (Keane, Petraeus, Stavridis, McCaffrey, Hodges, Hertling, and H. R. McMaster, to name but a few), then put together a plan the White House, Congress and American people can support. As with any endeavour - it starts with a plan.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

Copyright 2023. Jonathan E. Sweet and Mark C. Toth. All rights reserved. 

Col. (Ret.) Jonathan Sweet served 30 years as a military intelligence officer.

Mark Toth writes on national security and foreign policy. 

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