Last Sunday, senators unveiled the text of a bipartisan bill tying border security and immigration reform measures to further military aid to Ukraine and Israel, among other features. More right-leaning Republican leaders in the House immediately declared it “dead on arrival.” While this in great part demonstrates the more complicated political negotiations and broader concerns of each party, it also emphasizes the controversy that has developed surrounding U.S. military aid to Ukraine in the war (or at least, phase of war) initiated by Russia’s full-scale invasion that began on February 24, 2022.

For this article, Gaughan and Granahan will focus on the debate over whether the U.S. should continue to provide military aid to Ukraine in the forms it has thus far. While Gaughan will argue in favor, and Granahan against, both stringently reject the argument the latter presents, and endorse that of the former. Both believe unequivocally that the U.S. should continue to support Ukraine in its defensive war against Russian aggression.

For (Gaughan):

            On a cold day in February, disguised Russian troops in unmarked uniforms invaded the Crimean Peninsula and seized control of its government. This wasn’t 2022, it was 2014. In the immediate aftermath of this invasion of a sovereign democratic neighbor, Russia received little more backlash than a few sanctions, a disinvitation from certain groups (such as the former G8), and overall, a slap on the wrist. Its act of outright aggression, not dissimilar to that demonstrated against another neighbor, Georgia, in 2008, was met with an unwillingness of the West to take a firm stand for its supposed beliefs. In sum, Putin got away with it virtually scot-free, and uncovered the deep extent of the erosion of liberal values to which the post-WWII Western world had sworn itself.

When Russian forces stormed across Ukraine’s border from almost all sides, and nearly took Kyiv, it appeared that Russia at last took its unobstructed ambitions to their natural next step. Afterall, who would stop it? While the US still rode high on its supposed victory in the Cold War, Russian democracy swiftly crumbled, and the “evil empire” of which we were once warned dusted off its ferociously imperialistic visions for the world. All the meantime, the other largest country in Europe took its stand.

In 2014, Russian troops seized control of a significant Ukrainian territory that — along with every other region of the country — had voted for independence from the former USSR with a clear majority. Occasionally obscured, however, is the fact that while Russia plotted its conquest, Ukrainians protested and in a sense, revolted in the streets against their corrupt, dictatorial, Russophilic president Viktor Yanukovych. The Russian incursion coincided almost perfectly (as doubtlessly intended) with the flight and ouster of a leader later to be convicted in absentia of treason. But while the world looked on, despite Russia’s return to the imperialistic essence that had driven it during the Cold War, Ukraine stood alone.

We were in theory acting as much for our interests as for the world’s writ large when we spearheaded the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that stipulated a relinquishment of Ukraine’s post-Soviet nuclear arsenal, in exchange for guarantees of its border. The continued flow of military aid is the least we can do to uphold this commitment, and the sanctity of our oath as a great power. Ukraine has proved its willingness and determination with its desperate fight against invading forces over these last two years. The West must, at the very minimum, continue to enable Kyiv’s drive toward fully sovereign democracy.

Americans wondering whether it is our place to aid in Ukraine’s defense should cease. The question at hand is not whether the US should return to its old strategy of Kennanite containment, it is whether the supreme power of the free world should support and defend Ukraine; whether it will afford those who strive for the freedom it has long championed its due support.

On the cusp of the First World War — a war which had been brought to our doorsteps by German aggression — President Wilson declared that “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Then, as now, he was right. The rejection of this notion in that war’s aftermath drew us down the inevitable path to another. In this new, post-Soviet age of the internet, we must still hold close the lessons we have learned, and remember that our allies, and our ideals, are what drive this great country.

Russian aggression shows no signs of stopping, whether in the Caucasus and eastern Europe, its support for terrorist groups in the Middle East, its attempts to subvert the Balkan move toward Western-oriented democracy, or its intervention in free elections the world over. Russia is an aggressor state that seeks to undermine every principle the US holds dear. Ukraine stands firmly in its way, determined to fight on. We must continue to aid in this fight for liberty, against our historic adversary.

Against (Granahan):

The second half of August 2021 was perhaps the darkest period in the post-9/11 Islamic world. For weeks, the world watched as Afghan civilians clinging to U.S. military aircraft fell to their deaths while trying to escape the wrath of the Taliban, which had just taken control of Afghanistan. These horrifying events marked the culmination of a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that spanned the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations. Although different fingers were pointed at different presidents to assign blame for the evacuation’s deadly turn, all three recognized that American forces could not remain in Afghanistan forever. And yet, no decision between relinquishing control of Afghanistan to extremist militants who harbored the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, or sending American soldiers not even born prior 9/11 to die in combat, would have been necessary had the U.S. government not been too trusting of rebels fighting against a Russian invasion.

Following the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, the U.S. government began collaborating with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence to provide funding and arms to the mujahideen, a loose and unorganized collection of Afghan guerillas, to fight against the Soviets. By 1987, American assistance to the mujahideen topped out at $715 million a year. Despite the ideological differences between the American political mainstream and the mujahideen–an organization adhering strictly to Pashtun, Tajik, and Hazara tribal values, as well as a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam–the mujahideen were lauded for their anti-Soviet resistance, with U.S. president Jimmy Carter referring to them as “freedom fighters.” Later, Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto would warn U.S. president George H.W. Bush against “creating a Frankenstein” in the mujahideen. In 1996, seven years after the mujahideen’s victory in the Soviet-Afghan War, the Taliban, a mujahideen offshoot, seized power.

I will concede that it is entirely disingenuous to compare the broad Ukrainian national resistance against the Russian invasion to a terrorist organization like the Taliban. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is based on the pseudohistorical irredentism of the Putin regime, and the bodies of those killed in the Russo-Ukrainian War can be laid at the door of Vladimir Putin, and Vladimir Putin only. That said, it only takes one small, malicious group within a large, diverse movement to, in Prime Minister Bhutto’s words, create a Frankenstein. As proof of this, one needs to look no further than the self-proclaimed Afghan Arabs, a collection of foreign volunteers from the Arab world who traveled to Afghanistan to fight for the mujahideen. One Afghan Arab leader, a young Saudi engineering student, was reportedly on the receiving end of American funding to the mujahideen (although it is unlikely this funding was intended specifically for the Afghan Arabs). Using his wealth, that man–Osama bin Laden–would go on to establish the Islamist terrorist organization al-Qaeda and mastermind the events of 9/11.

While the Russian government’s large-scale accusations of inherent Ukrainian neo-Nazism are overwhelmingly baseless, there is still a non-insignificant presence of far-right elements in Ukraine’s military. The Azov Brigade, a fighting force of over 2,000 that was incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine in 2014, has long been controversial for the group’s endemic neo-Nazi affiliations, Holocaust denial, and brazen use of Nazi iconography. Azov represents a small fraction of Ukrainians fighting against the Russian invasion, but as more aid is sent to Ukraine by the U.S. government, it is hard to believe that absolutely none of these resources will end up in the hands of a neo-Nazi militia.

It is entirely understandable as to why so many Americans see financial assistance to Ukraine as a proper response to Russia’s brutal and unjustifiable invasion. But as the old adage goes: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And as demonstrated by the Afghanistan debacle, sometimes that Hell is not the realm of Satan, but instead Frankenstein.