The sky will not fall if the US continues withholding aid to Ukraine. Europe and NATO will likely draw closer to Ukraine and make up some of the shortages, while additional funds would be available from confiscated Russian state assets. Ukraine and Europe would benefit significantly through joint research, development, and defense industry build-up, while the US would be freed of some of its financial burdens. However, the consequences for the US are likely to be grave.

Without US funding, the immediate “transition” period of March through June may be the most critical but need not be unsurmountable. Presumably, newly conscripted and fully equipped troops would be undergoing training, European and other democratic countries would be urgently reviewing and supplying Ukraine with what ordnance they had out of existing and newly fabricated stock, and Ukrainian pilots would be preparing to mount newly acquired F-16s with more advanced missiles to take back control of Ukrainian skies.

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If Ukraine can mobilize sufficient resources internally and from its many worldwide friends and supporters during this period, I firmly believe that Ukraine can and will prevail……though not without additional casualties.

Putting aside, for a moment, the impact that loss of funding may have on Ukraine, the consequences for the United States may prove very damaging. I refer to this period of US failure to support Ukraine as the “Post-American Era.”  It will usher in America's retreat from the world stage and its steady military, diplomatic, and economic decline. 

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After hurried withdrawals from Vietnam and Afghanistan and after assembling an alliance of sixty democratic nations, pulling the rug out from under a brave and loyal, militarily successful, democratic ally will be seen by much of the world as an act of faintheartedness and betrayal.  

This is especially so because Ukraine’s fight is also America’s fight. Unless Russia is stopped in Ukraine, it won’t be long before America will be faced with the choice of withdrawing from NATO or spilling American blood on European battlefields.

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If MAGA Republicans in Congress were to leave Ukraine high and dry, which country would concede leadership or entrust its security to the US?  How long will it be before another faithful ally, Taiwan, is “reunited” with China, or “little green men” begin to appear in Moldova and frontline NATO states, or Iran feels empowered to assert regional dominance?

Please make no mistake about it. The unraveling of the global web of American alliances, treaties, and multi- or bilateral agreements that kept the world peaceful will be swift and at a high price.

Ukrainians will have to adjust to this unanticipated state of events. As noted above, their first order of business will be to acquire from its allies – with US backing but without funding – the emergency supplies, artillery rounds, and funding it needs to hold the line until mid-year.  They are already doing that. However, Ukraine must push through a new conscription law and start calling up new troops to show that it is doing its part.

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Second, if Ukraine is to resume its counteroffensive in the second half of the year, Ukrainian logistics personnel must concurrently assess the nation’s critical military needs and inventory global availability of supplies, including costs, production capabilities, and existing stocks.

Without Congressional appropriations, the US would assume its role as simply a source for purchasing some of Ukraine’s needs. Still, Ukraine would greatly benefit from the timeliness, certainty, and competitive pricing such acquisitions offer.  Czechia is a model in that it found the sources and raised the money to purchase 800,000 artillery projectiles for Ukraine, which will be available by June.

Third, Ukraine should take the initiative with NATO and the EU, to follow up on European Council President Charles Michel’s urging for the European economy to be put on a “war footing.”  Neither Europe nor Ukraine can risk continued dependency on US financial and military support in light of the fickleness demonstrated by the Republican party, nor can America be expected to underwrite European security indefinitely. 

President Zelensky has laid the legal foundation for Ukraine’s prospective integration into NATO through multiple bilateral “mutual security agreements” with European states.  Ukrainian personnel should now work cooperatively with their European counterparts to expedite the development of their respective defense industries and ensure the availability of adequate artillery rounds and military equipment into 2025 and beyond. 

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Fourth, at least for the remainder of this year, America will remain a backstop for NATO. However, given the unpredictability of a new American administration (notwithstanding campaign assurances), Europe’s NATO members will need to unite their national resources and, together with Ukraine, prepare, with greater authority and urgency, for any military challenge in a Post-American era.

If the US were to withdraw from NATO, the UK and France would be the only two NATO members that could now provide a nuclear umbrella over Europe, and that umbrella should be enhanced to the extent necessary for a minimal “mutual assured destruction” (MAD-lite) capability.

Europe does not need the full range of nuclear delivery capabilities that the US deploys to deter nuclear intimidation or aggression. Still, it must have enough to convince the Kremlin that a nuclear exchange would leave very little worth ruling over.  Regarding conventional forces, as soon as Ukraine joins NATO and the EU and contributes its human and material resources, the threat to Europe will be largely eliminated.

It bears repeating that in allowing adequate time for Europe to mobilize its resources and implement a broad-based build-up of its defense industrial bases, the priority must be supplying Ukraine with whatever it needs to build up its forces. As long as Russia is preoccupied with Ukraine, it is not likely to risk a “second front” either in a hybrid or conventional war. 

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Ukraine must be provided with what it needs to protect its population from airborne destruction, control its skies, and employ advanced equipment to wreak havoc on Russia’s military forces.

In this new era, Ukraine, to the extent it serves as the cornerstone of European security, should find it much easier and speedier to achieve membership and full integration with NATO and the EU. 

Fifth.  In addition to the support Ukraine receives from democratic countries to fill (at least in part) the gap left by Congress, it can anticipate access to (an estimated) $300 billion of confiscated Russian state assets currently held in North American and European banks. These resources are primarily intended to compensate for Russia’s damage and the rebuilding of critical facilities. Still, a part should be used for the purchase of critically needed ordinance, protection from aerial attacks, and rehabilitation of wounded warriors and civilians.

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Sixth.  Notwithstanding any decisions America’s political leaders choose to make regarding Ukraine or Europe, neither should put themselves – or remain in – a situation in which the US calls the shots.  When Trump stated (as he has done several times) that he would “end the war” in “24 hours,” what he meant is that he would twist President Zelensky’s hand by withholding funds and military supplies until Ukraine either gives in to Putin or Trump “lets him do what the hell he wants.”  

It should be evident to everyone but the ignorant or the callow that Trump has been very deferential to Putin from the moment he stepped onto the political stage and has persisted – against all evidence to the contrary – in his belief that he could control Russia’s ambitions (or Putin’s historical and genocidal delusions).  His attitude that NATO is no longer needed was spawned from when the USSR was dissolved, and he dreams of the olden times when the superpowers would divvy up the fate of minor players or serve them up as bargaining chips.

George Woloshyn served as Deputy General Counsel and Associate Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  He was appointed by President Reagan (with Senate confirmation) to head FEMA's National Preparedness program as its Associate Director and retired from government service in 2000 after serving as Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Board.

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

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