Securing Ukraine’s strategic assets can help end the war

The Biden administration has struggled hard to communicate its overarching foreign policy strategy, snaking from one geopolitical crisis to the next. Upon ordering the chaotic Withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 to redeploy US troops to Somalia with no clear goal for President Joe Biden punch Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after mentoring the ideational struggle of our time between democracy and autocracy, the White House has not explained how Washington’s foreign policy benefits the American national interest. The war in Ukraine was no different.

Could the Biden administration have done more?

While Russian President Vladimir Putin is ultimately responsible for the carnage unleashed in Ukraine, the Biden administration failed to provide sufficient support to Ukraine before the invasion to deter Russia’s attack, which would have saved tens of thousands of lives in Ukraine and billions of dollars in the United States. taxpayer funds.

The White House failed to deter the Kremlin’s aggression due to a lack of support in Kyiv and the US president’s gaffes during the buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border. A US envoy to Ukraine was only named after Russia invaded Ukraine and any significant US leverage against Moscow ended when the US loose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and President Biden has publicly stated that US responses to Russia will be limited if the Kremlin conducts a “minor incursion” in Ukraine.

The United States sent support, but the exact type of support is not yet clear

Since the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the White House has struggled to frame US support for Kyiv in anything other than Manichean phrases. During a March 26 speech in Warsaw, Poland, President Biden declared“We have emerged again in the great battle for freedom: a battle between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and repression, between an order based on rules and one governed by brute force.”

Questions are mounting about the ultimate goal of US aid to Ukraine. Is it to foment regime change in the Kremlin, after Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “can’t stay in power”? Or is it to arm Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian attack and to mediate a political settlement negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv?

Defending democracy and sovereignty could weaken the United States

America has already committed $40 billion economic and security aid to Ukraine. As tensions with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) escalate, Washington may soon have to refocus its attention on defending Taiwan. Ukraine must therefore prepare for the ongoing Russian assault, press for a ceasefire and rebuild the country’s destroyed infrastructure.

A political solution between Ukraine and Russia is needed and Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen, including Rinat Akhmetov, owner of Metinvest, Ukraine’s largest steelmaker, can play a role in rebuilding Ukraine’s shattered economy. Zelensky’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, recently declared Akhmetov has led by example, but he cannot continue to operate his businesses if assets are continually stolen or destroyed by Russian forces.

It is therefore in the national interest of the United States to prevent further thefts of steel, grain and other Ukrainian products by the Russian military, so that the Ukrainian private sector can focus on efforts to stabilize the Ukrainian economy. Former US Undersecretary of State James Glassman called the theft of Ukraine’s strategic assets – steel, wheat, corn and barley – “institutional piracy on a scale not seen since World War II”.

Securing resources makes the difference

First, preventing Russian forces from profiting from the looting of Kyiv’s strategic assets and holding Moscow accountable for the theft of Ukrainian products is a foreign policy that benefits all Americans. Every dollar of profit from the sale and export of Ukrainian steel and grain on the open market should be counted as one less US dollar sent to Kyiv in aid. Moreover, if Washington expects Russia’s advances through Ukraine to slow, the US government cannot allow the Russian war machine to be fueled by the sale of the stolen strategic assets of the Ukraine on the black market.

Second, as the world wheat and steel are currently at lower prices than before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Glassman said there is no doubt that the continued plunder of Ukraine’s commodities will ultimately lead to inflationary shocks global. The Initiative for the Study of Russian Piracy (ISRP) estimates that 11,000 metric tons of Ukrainian steel were stolen by Russian forces, while another 28,000 metric tons were loaded onto ships docked in Mariupol, waiting to be looted.

As the White House tried to distract from the catastrophic impact of the Biden administration’s progressive climate policies on global energy prices, calling the hike at the fuel pump “Putin’s price hike “. Russia’s plunder of grain and steel from Ukraine will in effect turn into an inflationary shock that will raise the price of food and any new construction dependent on Kyiv’s steel. It will be the real “Putin price hike” that will impact Americans, at a time when the United States inflation has reached high levels for 40 years.

As former US diplomat Suriya Jayanti said observed, “the underlying problem with inflation is currently on the supply side…and the war in Ukraine is wreaking havoc on supply chains.” Ending Russia’s plunder of Ukraine’s assets will therefore increase the global supply of these key commodities and curb rising inflation.

Finally, America must help Ukraine help itself, not only by transferring arms to help Ukraine’s military defense against Russian invasion, but by ensuring that the economy Ukrainian society can finally rebuild once the war is over. The only hope of helping Ukraine negotiate an optimal political settlement with Russia is to ensure the sale of agricultural products and the export of strategic assets.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a mortar at a position, as Russian attacks continue, at an undisclosed location in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

Going forward, if the Biden administration continues to waver in its attempts to pursue successful negotiations, Congress should take the lead in ensuring that Ukraine’s strategic assets are secure and that the proceeds from the sale of these proceeds is used to reduce the commitment of American taxpayers to fund the Kyiv war effort.

Future U.S. aid is expected to be conditional on agreements with Kyiv that Ukraine’s tax revenue generated from commodity sales will be used to bolster Washington’s continued support. Policies Congress should consider include sanctions against Russian looters and black market buyers of stolen Ukrainian goods, seizures of construction assets, which used stolen Ukrainian steel, and support for reparations paid by the Russia to Ukraine for all stolen assets already sold, which can then be used for Ukraine’s reconstruction, further easing the burden on US taxpayers for such efforts.

Darren Spinck is a researcher at the Henry Jackson Society.

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