Published in The National Interest
RUSSIA’S INVASION of Ukraine in February 2022 has produced an outpouring of international support for Kyiv. The United States has led these efforts. Even before Russian forces surged across the border, the United States and many of its allies signaled their opposition to Moscow’s predatory ambitions by warning of a range of potential sanctions Russia would incur, working to mobilize a potential diplomatic coalition against Moscow, and bolstering Ukraine’s military forces. Since the invasion, the United States has taken the lead in providing Ukraine with military equipment and training, economic aid, a near-blank check of diplomatic support, intelligence of use for stymying Russia’s offensive, and threatening draconian consequences should Russia use nuclear weapons in its campaign. Increasingly fervent bipartisan calls to penalize Russia, Ukraine’s lobbying efforts for additional aid, mounting calls from many think tankers and pundits to do more on Kyiv’s behalf, and the Biden administration’s gradual increase in support for Kyiv since February all suggest the American commitment may only grow in the future.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration and other proponents of current U.S. policy have so far failed to offer a strategic argument on behalf of the costs and risks that current U.S. policy incurs in the Russia-Ukraine War. To be sure, many have defined specific objectives vis-à-vis Ukraine itself. Still, definition and discussion of how U.S. efforts in Ukraine contribute to overarching U.S. national objectives and interests are broadly lacking, reduced primarily to gesticulations toward broad principles that might justify the American response in Ukraine so far. Amid the continuing war and ongoing calls for the United States to “do more,” the question remains: what, if any, are the United States’ strategic interests in Ukraine—and how might the United States best service them?