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Paul Brandus: Americans’ support for Ukraine is wavering, but providing aid creates U.S. jobs


“Helping Ukraine helps American workers.”

Sometimes the way issues are framed in Washington can seem backwards. Take the debate about providing military aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Support for Ukraine is falling among Americans of both parties, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. It said that 41% of respondents agreed with a statement that Washington “should provide weapons,” compared to 35% who disagreed. The rest were unsure, the poll said.  

This is an urgent matter. Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked the advance of a $110 billion package of wartime funding for Ukraine as well as Israel. This after a warning from the White House earlier this week that a fresh round of assistance is needed for Ukraine, and that time is running short. 

“I want to be clear: without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks,” Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to congressional leaders. 

“There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money — and nearly out of time,” she added. 

Read: As Ukraine aid falters in Senate, Biden signals he’s willing to make deal on border security

More: Senate Republicans block Ukraine and Israel aid from advancing, demand border policy changes

But there’s another way to see this issue. What if pollsters asked: “Do you support federal spending to support America’s industrial base?” Or: “Do you approve or disapprove of federal spending that supports American manufacturing?” Or: “Do you approve of defense spending that would support jobs in your state?”

I wonder what the responses to such questions would be. The same holds true for Democrats and Republicans who oppose additional aid for Ukraine.  

These questions are relevant, because when we hear about “supporting Ukraine,” it also means supporting American manufacturing jobs, specifically defense jobs. 

Some examples of Ukraine spending that is bolstering American defense jobs: 

HIMARS rockets (short for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) have hit countless Russian targets including ammunition depots, bridges and command and control infrastructure — a huge disruptor of Moscow’s war fighting ability. Lockheed Martin

makes HIMARS chassis and launcher components at a plant in Camden, Ark.

Patriot air defense systems have saved countless Ukrainian lives by knocking down Russian missiles. This is crucial, given that Russia has shown, from day one of its Feb. 2022 invasion, that it wouldn’t refrain from attacking civilian targets including hospitals, schools and apartment buildings. Patriot systems are made by RTX Corp. (formerly known as Raytheon Technology Corp.)

at a plant in Arizona. 

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle, developed by FMC Corp
, a Philadelphia-based chemical company and manufactured in nearby York, Pa. by BAE Systems Land & Armaments

For all the high-tech weaponry that has been deployed in the Ukraine-Russia war, it’s worth noting that old-fashioned artillery has played a huge role as well. In this regard, the conflict has exposed a glaring U.S. weakness: an inability to manufacture enough artillery shells in the event of a national emergency.

To this end, production is being ramped up at facilities around the U.S. According to the military website Task and Purpose, the U.S. Army has been expanding production capacity at plants it owns in Virginia and Tennessee. Shell bodies themselves are made by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems in Pennsylvania
Final assembly is conducted at a plant in Iowa.

All told, U.S. aid to Ukraine has boosted economic activity and jobs in 38 states, the White House says. Politicians on both sides of the aisle can see what they want to see in the chart below, which shows increased defense spending in election swing states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona — but also in Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia, deep-red states that are all but guaranteed to support the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. 

Source: The White House

“ In a world of multiplying dangers, can the U.S. afford not to spend more on defense?”

The global challenges facing Americans currently brings to mind what the U.S. encountered in the 1930s. World War I had been over for a generation, America partied through the “Roaring ’20s” and we let our guard down. In the decade that followed, Hitler came to power, Germany rearmed, and Japan went to war in Asia. By the decade’s end, World War II was underway. 

The situation now? As Robert Gates — who served as both Secretary of Defense and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency—notes in Foreign Policy:  “The United States now confronts graver threats to its security than it has in decades, perhaps ever. Never before has it faced four allied antagonists at the same time — Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — whose collective nuclear arsenal could within a few years be nearly double the size of its own. Not since the Korean War has the United States had to contend with powerful military rivals in both Europe and Asia. And no one alive can remember a time when an adversary had as much economic, scientific, technological, and military power as China does today.”   

With that sober analysis in mind, critics may ask whether we can afford to spend more on defense. Perhaps a better question, in a world of multiplying dangers, is whether we can afford not to.

The post-Cold War era, which began with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and collapse of the Soviet Union two years later, ended long ago. In its place are growing threats which must be contained. “We would like to live as we once did,” President John F. Kennedy said three hours before he was assassinated, “but history will not permit it.”

More: You’re not imagining things: The end of the ‘everything bubble’ has made the world more dangerous

Also read: ‘We can’t let Putin win’: Biden urges Congress to approve Ukraine aid

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