Even the Biden administration, where senior leaders publicly disagree over when to begin diplomacy, made one of the strongest arguments for continued and uninterrupted aid to Kiev.
“The outcome of the war in Ukraine will help determine the course of global security in this early century, and we in North America have no ability to sit it out,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during an address. received on Saturday before flying to Asia. “Stability and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic are at stake.”
The forum has long served to galvanize American and Western leaders around issues of global concern for the purpose of advancing democracy worldwide. This year’s focus was on Ukraine’s fight against the aggression of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We cannot let Russia and Putin get away with this kind of aggression,” Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said on the sidelines of the meeting.
“The Ukrainians are waging this war, but it is also our war,” she said. “If Russia were to win, it would have a direct impact on our security.”
While attendees spoke about the growing debate over when and how to start talks during three days of public and private sessions, the conference’s main message was to support Ukraine even more. And Ukrainian officials who traveled thousands of miles to Halifax in the middle of the war said they felt buoyed by the aid. “I feel a strong connection, especially being here,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna told reporters during a roundtable discussion.
Just after the midterm elections that saw control of the House pass from Democrats to Republicans, a group of nine lawmakers stressed that bipartisan support to help Ukraine defeat Russia is not waning on Capitol Hill.
“This is probably one of the most bipartisan issues I’ve seen since I’ve been in Congress,” said Sen. Jim Rick of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“There are only a handful of people who are hesitant to join this struggle in Ukraine,” Risch added. “So focus on the majority. We are required to do this on a twofold basis. We are arm in arm on this.” Despite such promises, Ukraine has expressed concern that a Republican-led House will not be hungry for long-term economic aid.
The global reverberation of the war in Ukraine was held in high regard by leaders across Europe. “If we lose in Ukraine, we lose Belarus, we lose credibility,” Poland’s global defense chief General Rajmund Andrzejczak told POLITICO at the conference. China is closely monitoring the conflict, Andrzejczak added, and as Beijing poses a more serious longer-term threat, success in Ukraine will also have repercussions in the Indo-Pacific.
“It’s a matter of synchronizing our efforts,” he said. “If we don’t do the mission in Ukraine first, we won’t be ready for mission number two, which is China.”
The general’s remarks underlined that the tone in Halifax had turned 180 degrees from last year. Subsequently, the failed US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the January 6 uprising, and Russia’s military buildup on the border with Ukraine led transatlantic allies to question the strength of US democracy and global commitments. China was also the big bad of the conference, with panels and late-night powwows aimed at curbing its rising power and countering its brand of authoritarianism.
But this year there was much less focus on Beijing and even less criticism of the United States. The consensus was that Washington and its Western allies were right to prioritize Ukraine’s struggles – and should continue to do so – while simultaneously derailing China’s cyber and technology machinations. The tone mirrored in many ways the two major NATO meetings this year in Brussels and Madrid, where NATO’s previous efforts to shift attention to countering Chinese influence were almost completely overruled by Ukraine.
Ukrainian leaders clearly saw the forum as an opportunity to make their case. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Presidential Bureau Chief Andriy Yermak, National Security Adviser Oleksiy Danilov and others addressed the elite audience virtually, rejecting calls for an impending negotiated peace. Instead, they said Ukraine was now the frontline of global democracy, a sentiment shared by many at the forum.
“Today we have a historic unity of all democratic countries around Ukraine, and this is very important. We are together, we will be together after we win this war,” Yermak said on Saturday.
The push for that unity may have been particularly fervent because of tensions that arose in the days leading up to the conference over a missile that landed in Poland across the Ukrainian border, killing two civilians. Ukraine initially said a missile launched by Russia was to blame, though Warsaw and Washington said evidence points to a Ukrainian air defense missile. Now both capitals have pledged to await the outcome of an investigation before commenting further.
Like other Western leaders, Andrzejczak blamed Russia for the incident, as it happened amid a barrage of 100 Russian missiles launched on civilian infrastructure on Tuesday night.
The question on Sunday, after two days of conference sessions, was where to go from here. An answer could be needed soon, as there were indications that Kiev was planning the next phase of the war.
Both Yermak and Stefanishyna, the deputy prime minister, hinted at an upcoming military campaign to retake control of Crimea, the peninsula Russia illegally annexed in 2014. in late December in Crimea.
Congress will also consider another $38 billion in aid to Ukraine in the coming weeks as part of a government financing package. The Biden administration’s latest request comes on top of the roughly $66 billion Congress has earmarked for military, economic and humanitarian aid since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February.
Legislators can offer more help than what the administration is looking for.
sen. Chris Koons (D-Del.) argued that Congress should increase Biden’s request humanitarian aid and benefit from battlefield gains.
“It is specifically my hope that we will contribute to the humanitarian side of it,” Coons told reporters.
“The United States must make it clear that we are willing not only to deliver the package the president has asked for, but to add to it in ways that we believe will contribute to the defense of Ukraine,” he said. said Coons.
representative Sarah Jacobs (D-Calif.) however, insisted that funding for Ukraine should be looked more deeply into the future. “I hope the focus on winning extends beyond the guns because I think it will take a real effort to rebuild,” she said. The focus should be on “rebuilding a democratic Ukraine”.
Lawmakers huddled Friday with Austin on the conference sidelines. The Pentagon chief discussed, among other things, how aid could shift over time to meet new challenges in Ukraine, as well as the health of the defense industrial base, which needs to be ramped up to deliver weapons and equipment while ensuring the To replenish U.S. stockpiles of weapons already sent to the front lines, according to Rep. Jason Crow (D color.).
“I would much rather be a member of the defense contact group and Ukraine than Russia at this point because they are in very bad shape,” Crow said. “It will take a very, very long time for Vladimir Putin and Russia to recreate the army they had just nine months ago. It’s that bad for them.
“So, yes, what we’re doing is very effective,” he said. “But the opponent always has a voice.”