First, some context. Today’s article on Ukraine by aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin should be required reading for anyone who intends to comment on Russia’s war of aggression, as Zubrin lays out with piercing clarity the simple reality that, thanks to the Ukrainian people’s heroic resistance, the United states could boost the country to victory at astonishingly low cost. Key points: “The 100 HiMARS units that Ukraine needs to win would amount to only 3 percent, approximately, of America’s total rocket artillery firepower,” and furthermore, “[h]undreds of HiMARS and MLRS units have already been delivered to many NATO allies as well as to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and many Arab states, with 180 of them going to Saudi Arabia alone.” It is the Biden administration’s intentional slow-walking of deliveries, argues Zubrin, that has prevented provision to Ukraine of the kind of firepower that would already have turned the tide of war decisively against Putin.
Of course, there is much encouraging information about the war which heralds gloomy outcomes for Russia anyway. But it is foolish to rely on probabilities and hope for the best when one could easily ensure a desirable result. The good news is that, as bad as Biden is on foreign policy, at least he is no Blake Masters. That brings us back to the aspiring politician’s comments on Ukraine.
On May 11, Masters posted a video on Twitter (transcript here) in which he talked about a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine that had just cleared the House of Representatives. He begins by reminding his audience that “they said $8 billion for a border wall with Mexico was too expensive.” While the Democrats’ opposition to the border wall certainly deserves criticism, and may mean that some of the Representatives who voted for the aid package are hypocrites, it also says nothing about whether said package was justified. Masters’s first “argument” is a deflection. In fact, if he thinks (as I do) that $8 billion is worthwhile for a border wall, then why is he implying that just five times that amount is too much to spend on addressing what the RAND Corporation calls “the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II”?
“Under Joe Biden, it’s always America last,” he remarks. True enough. But again, Biden’s failure (or rather, refusal) to secure the United States’ southern border has nothing to do with Ukraine. It’s not like he doesn’t have the money to keep the border safe because he spends too lavishly on foreign policy. According to yesterday’s article in the Epoch Times by historian Victor Davis Hanson, “[t]he hard American Left always wanted unlimited illegal immigration. Biden agreed and has been lax on security at the southern border.” The problem isn’t a lack of funds. It’s intentionally destructive policy. Furthermore, the talking point that the United States should deal with its Mexican border instead of, not in addition to, responding to crises abroad reveals a remarkable lack of faith in the country Masters supposedly wants to put first. As Douglas Murray has commented on Fox News, “some people say things like, ‘well, you think you can defend Ukraine’s borders, but what about America’s border?’ How about doing both? How about having a foreign policy and a domestic policy? American history is filled with America being able to have a foreign policy and a domestic policy. I don’t see why we can’t now.”
“Let’s be clear about what this means,” Masters continues. “It means no cease-fire.” First of all, if a useful cessation of hostilities is to be negotiated, it is crucial that Ukraine have enough bargaining power (meaning, in practice, enough military might) to prevent Russia from simply forcing a deal designed to pave the way to further Russian aggression. We have already had this issue once before, with the Minsk agreements, which “were part and parcel of the problem—and in many ways enshrined Russia’s strategies that led to this year’s invasion.” In any case, the notion that a peace deal would actually constrain Putin is hopelessly naïve. After all, when he began his full-blown invasion of Ukraine in late February, the Russian despot simply declared that the Minsk agreements “do not exist.” No, really. Unless backed by substantial hard power, peace deals with Russia aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
Also, if providing Ukraine with the means to defend itself “means no cease-fire,” clearly Masters’ desired outcome is peace through Russian victory. In other words, just let the invaders win. It doesn’t take a genius to see how rewarding aggression would invite more wars of aggression. Given the global food crisis this war has already unleashed, that is hardly a risk we can afford to take.
“Many more thousands of people will die [because of the aid package],” Masters claims. How he presumes to know this is beyond me. With academics divided on whether Russia’s actions in Ukraine constitute genocide, it seems pretty apparent that more people, and certainly more civilians, will die the more territory the occupiers manage to conquer.
Additionally, a Russian victory in Ukraine is highly likely to lead Putin to invade other countries – if not immediately, then after the passage of a few years. Belarusian dictator and Putin’s ally in the war Alexander Lukashenko has already been seen with a map that seemed to show plans for an invasion of Moldova on the heels of Russian military advances in Ukraine. Gennadi Zyuganov, head of Russia’s second-largest party, has “called for Russia to take action to protect Russian-speakers in Kazakhstan,” which is unsettling partly because protection of Russian speakers was the pretext for the current full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Plus, as Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage write, “Russian propaganda regularly advocates advances on Berlin or nuclear attacks on London.”
Another of Masters’s arguments is that “a proxy war can escalate into an all-out nuclear war between nuclear powers.” Got it. So any country that has nuclear weapons should be free to invade any country that doesn’t. That is a sure-fire way to increase the incentives not just for wars of aggression, but for the acquisition of nuclear arms as well. In fairness, this is the closest the senatorial hopeful gets to a reasonable argument. After all, fears of escalation were a good reason not to provide Ukraine with a no-fly zone. However, as Fix and Kimmage note, even the Cold War (which was between two nuclear powers) had its own “invisible rules,” under which “support for the other’s adversaries in peace and war” was allowed. The current situation seems to be similar: as the authors further observe, “Russia[…] has not targeted weapons convoys headed into Ukraine while they are still on NATO territory.” If Putin has not even taken that step yet, it hardly makes sense to fear that a nuclear war is right around the corner. Rather, as Fix and Kimmage describe, there are certain “invisible rules” that have emerged, and as long as the United States keeps doing only what it has already been doing – supplying weapons and financial aid to Ukraine – it can hardly be considered to have violated those rules.
Moreover, for obvious reasons, a great-power clash that could escalate into a nuclear war is far more likely to ensue with China over Taiwan than with Russia over Ukraine. This is one specific reason why it is so important for the West to show strength in supporting Ukraine, and thereby deter China from an invasion of its island neighbor. Indeed, the support may already be bearing fruit, as CIA director William Burns has stated that some in China’s halls of power, including Xi Jinping himself, are “unsettled” by Russia’s poor performance against the Ukrainian defenders, specifically given what it means for their own chances in Taiwan.
“If our leaders were serious people who cared about this country, they’d encourage peace abroad,” Masters comments, even though encouraging peace is exactly what resisting imperialist military aggression does. “They’ll keep funding killing in Eastern Europe,” he says. To him, the heroic Ukrainians who have taken up arms to defend their country are nothing more than killers. But aside from that disgusting subtext, this statement is also highly deceptive. Remember that he is still commenting on the “$40 billion for Ukraine” he mentioned at the beginning of his monologue, in those words. He never mentions that less than $20 billion of that sum was military aid to Ukraine, and almost the same amount – $16 billion – was “for economic support[…], global humanitarian relief, and a wide variety of international programs.” Manipulation, it seems, is second nature to this man.
Much more could be written about Blake Masters’s asinine commentary on Russia and Ukraine. However, what we have covered so far should be enough. In a time when narrow partisanship, personal grudges, and culture wars dominate American politics, voters should remember that US senators may be elected at the state level, but a large part of their job is the making of foreign policy. They should remember this and vote accordingly.