An Ohio Republican congressman and member of the House Freedom Caucus told RedState he has questions for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as the comic-cum-war leader arrived in New York City today for his second visit to the United States, including an address to the United Nations General Assembly and visit to Washington.
“I’d be happy to meet with him or his delegation as someone who’s been reluctant for the United States to get involved in a proxy war, but to say: ‘What would he view as success at this point?’” said Rep. Warren G. Davidson, who is also a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee.
Davidson said he recognized that the Ukrainians had fought gallantly against terrible odds, but Zelensky needs to lay out for lawmakers what his plan moving forward is.
“Frankly, I think you got to look at it and say they’ve achieved an awful lot of success with what they have done right now,” the Army Ranger veteran and West Point graduate said.
Davidson said he views that success in the context of President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s statements and behavior before Russian military forces crossed the berm.
“The Biden administration’s early expectations were clearly that their country would be steamrolled by Russia and collapse—that’s why they offered him a ride out—they figured he would have a government in exile,” he said.
“He said: ‘I don’t need a ride, I need ammunition,’ and that really is how the fight began,” he said.
“They showed heavy commitment to defending their country, and that motivated people from around the world and across the United States to support them,” he said.
Davidson said diplomacy is the best way to resolve the war, yet the president and his team have sabotaged diplomacy.
“Even if you concede that the war could have been avoidable, it wasn’t avoided, and now Russia is occupying part of Ukraine, so how do we resolve that?” the congressman asked.
“The Biden administration has actively discouraged and disrupted diplomatic efforts even when Zelensky showed interest in diplomacy, but the failure from the administration has been consistent and enduring,” he said.
Davidson: Ukraine aid needs a standalone vote
Davidson said he believes that aid for Ukraine will be separate from the budget negotiations.
“I think the smart thing would be to give that as a standalone vote if it even comes to the floor,” he said.
The congressman said despite the money already approved in the Pentagon’s budget, known on Capitol Hill as the National Defense Authorization Act, and money already agreed to, the White House is looking for more.
“Part of the problem is we already set a top-line number, and the Biden administration wants to fund this separate from that—and a lot of us don’t believe that that should be done. This should be part of the agreed-upon number,” he said.
Davidson said it is hard for him to give a number for the amount of new U.S. aid to Ukraine he would support because the Biden administration has yet to establish a goal.
“There’s $300 billion in the NDAA budget, and if you want to look at it, my number can’t be set because I don’t know the mission,” he said.
“You can’t assign resources without knowing what exactly you’re trying to accomplish, and that’s been my point from the get-go; you tell me you need this many resources, tell me what mission you’re trying to accomplish,” he said.
Davidson said he is not ready to back expanding the war in Ukraine to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government. “If what you’re trying to accomplish is regime change in Russia, you don’t have enough resources to do that.”
The congressman said his concerns about escalation are driving his aid skepticism, especially when he hears from Biden that Zelensky is getting a blank check for as long as it takes.
He said he is also concerned about the escalation of equipment heading to Ukraine.
“I think F-16s would be a big escalation, or I think tanks would be a big escalation or long-range missiles,” he said. “They keep slow-walking it in, so clearly, it is their intent to escalate it and expand the war.
The congressman’s own goal is simple: Keep the war from spreading into NATO countries, he said.
Davidson: Ohio Ukrainian-Americans asked him to support more Ukrainian aid
The congressman said there is a significant Ukrainian community in his district and Ohio, and they are urging him to support more military aid for the Zelensky government.
“They stopped by my office, and frankly, they wanted me to be more supportive of funding for Ukraine, and I shared my views,” he said.
“Some people understood it. I think some people respected it; certainly, some other people were somewhat angered by it and felt frustrated,” he said.
“Look, I get it. If you’re a Ukrainian, it’s easy to say: ‘I will do everything in my power to expel Russia from my country.’ I’m certainly not saying that it’s somehow just for Russia to take any part of Ukraine,” he said.
Davidson, who earned his MBA from Notre Dame University, said he suspects the real and unstated goal of the Biden administration is to evict Russian forces from all of Ukraine, which some people thought was possible at the start of the fighting, even if Biden did not.
Eighteen months later, the congressman said the Ukrainians did not get steamrolled by the Russians, and their government did not collapse. “They’ve gotten over 400,000 Ukrainians killed in combat by their own acknowledged estimates, so they’ve paid a very heavy cost to be where they are.”
The current stalemate is a win for Ukraine, but he said if Biden wants full-on expulsion, he needs to make that case.
“There aren’t enough resources in Ukraine for that to be accomplished, and the only way for that to be accomplished would be to expand the war,” he said.
Despite the relative success of the Ukrainian military, the congressman said he is still concerned that the war will get bigger before it gets smaller.
“The reality is they’re grinding down not just the Russian Army, but the Ukrainian army and more heavily the Ukrainian army and the country of Ukraine,” he said.
“Is there a way to move forward here that achieves what the Biden administration is holding out publicly as a promise, which is that somehow they can, without expanding the war, expel Russia from Ukraine?” he asked.
“If people really believe that, then I’d like to see the intelligence that makes ’em believe that,” the Ohioan said.
“I don’t think the American people support that. I’m not saying it would be unjust; I’m just saying I don’t think the American people support us being involved in that war.”