Fighting for freedom or appeasing Putin: The choice is clear
| October 5, 2023 12:00 AM
“Freedom isn’t free.” It surely was not for those who fought and died for America’s freedom in the beginning. Following the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and through the eight brutal and bloody years of the Revolutionary War, winning and securing America’s freedom from a tyrannical foreign power was the cause for which genuine American patriots willingly and knowingly gave their lives.
While the American forces prevailed, the military success of George Washington’s beleaguered Continental Army might not have happened at all were it not for the vital assistance of Britain’s longtime rival, France.
Indeed, even though the historical parallel is not identical, it is unquestionable that the struggling democracy of Ukraine is now desperately and expertly fighting to be free from a tyrannical and brutal aggressor – one repeatedly and entirely motivated by delusional and demonic notions of conquest and empire building. Like France, the United States of America and our NATO allies are providing vital and indispensable assistance to Ukraine against Russia, the alliance’s longtime menacing rival.
What seems to be less well known is how inexpensive this existential fight for freedom, democracy and world order has been for the United States. While we don’t know precisely how Congress will finally address every remaining budget issue, we do know that the FY 2023 U.S. budget totals about $6.4 trillion. We also know that the current defense budget amounts to about $832 billion, which is 13% of the total budget.
And, finally, we know that since 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, through Aug. 22, 2023, the United States has committed approximately $46 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, which is a little over 5% of the military budget for the most recent fiscal year, or about 0.7% of the overall $6.4 trillion federal budget for FY 2023.
Furthermore, we know that 15 of the European democracies allied in the defense of Ukraine spend a larger percentage of their GDP on Ukrainian defense than the United States does. The Russians are notoriously and consistently untruthful, but western estimates are that as much as a third of the Russian economic output is being spent on the war.
In addition, while both sides are guarded about the casualties they have sustained over the last 19 months, estimates recently published in the New York Times reveal that so far, in this cruel and devastating war, nearly 300,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded, while Ukrainian casualties have been approximately 200,000.
Certainly, those numbers will only rise as the Russians, awaiting the results of the 2024 US election, will continue to obliterate the landscape, infrastructure, culture and people of Ukraine based on the belief that the United States will surely despair, embrace isolationism, and abandon the will to support the fight for democracy and freedom in Ukraine and everywhere in the world.
We both recently had the opportunity to attend a wonderful and greatly informative lecture by former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, sponsored by the Mansfield Center at the University of Montana. Among the Ambassador’s many insightful remarks, was the stark warning that unless the Russians are pushed out of Ukraine, bloodier and more expensive conflicts will continue to occur on the European continent and around the world.
The appeasement strategy that led directly to World War II could again lead to global destruction and devastation on a massive planetary scale if the free world weakens in this critical showdown with the maniacal leader of Russia. The minimal cost the U.S. is contributing to this fight for freedom will be multiplied many times over if the United States and our democratic allies dispense with our collective resolve and responsibility to preserve, protect, and defend our mutual freedom and way of life.
If we turn our backs on the people and the country of Ukraine now, we will forever and deeply regret it.
Marc Racicot is a former Montana Governor and Attorney General. Bob Brown is a former Montana Secretary of State and State Senate President.