US Engagement with Ukraine

The USA must be look inward to play a global role

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, people are getting tired of emotional appeals about Ukrainian bravery and Russian actions. Republicans have valid concerns: they want to cut government spending, make sure US aid to Ukraine isn’t misused by corrupt officials, and figure out where helping Ukraine fits in US priorities. One thing most Americans agree on is the importance of a strong US military. However, President Biden is providing enough aid for Ukraine to keep fighting but not enough to win. There’s a strong argument from conservatives to increase US assistance to Ukraine. For a relatively small cost, Americans can support Ukraine in a war that NATO was worried about. It’s important to note that a significant portion of US aid to Ukraine goes to US companies that produce weapons for Kyiv. Engaging with Ukraine is also revealing weaknesses in the US defence system. To fund defense adequately, changes to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are necessary. Both Democrats and Republicans need to reconsider their stance on entitlement reform, as these programs make up a large portion of federal spending. If not addressed, the cost of entitlements will limit spending on defence and other domestic programmes.

The solution is not to adopt policies that give up on trade, weaken the military, leave the US-Mexican border in chaos, and stop helping deserving allies. Americans still want the USA to be a leader in the world for the sake of the country and their own safety and prosperity. US leaders need to prove they know how to do it

There’s also a need for better border policies. Many Americans don’t understand why the US military doesn’t protect the country’s borders. Immigration policy is closely tied to foreign policy and the US economy. A majority of Americans think the USA is doing a poor job managing its borders, and there’s a surge in illegal border crossings. The military is restricted by the Posse Comitatus Act from acting as a domestic police force, but political leaders should invest in border security. This includes more funding for the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, as well as technology to track migrant movements. Cooperation with Mexico and addressing the root causes of migration are also crucial. Failure to regulate immigration properly hinders the USA from maximizing its geopolitical opportunities, especially in North American cooperation. Clearer immigration policies could lead to stronger collaboration with neighbouring countries, benefiting the U.S. economy. However, until Americans are confident in border control, they may be hesitant to support these cooperation opportunities. According to experts at the Brennan Center, many Americans are confused about why the US military doesn’t protect the country’s borders. Republicans could improve their policies on this issue. Immigration is crucial for foreign policy and the U.S. economy. A survey in January 2021 by Pew Research Institute showed that 68% of Americans believe the U.S. is not managing its borders well. Indeed, since January 2020, about 200,000 people try to enter the USA illegally every month through the Mexican border, the highest in 20 years. Contrary to what the media says, most of these people are adults, not kids.

The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act stops the military from acting like a police force within the USA. Generals, who are already busy, don’t want to protect the borders, fearing it might harm people’s respect for the military. To get more support for US activities abroad, leaders need to show they can put more effort and resources into border security.

A survey in January 2023 found that most Americans want to give more money to the US Customs and Border Protection Agency. It’s not just about money and more people. Over 60 percent of recent migrants aren’t from Mexico or Central America but start their journey in places like Colombia, Cuba, Peru, and Venezuela. The USA should invest in surveillance and technology to track migrants in Central America, speed up asylum claims in new immigration courts, work more with Mexico to stop migrants passing through, and engage with migrants’ home countries to solve problems and help those who don’t meet US immigration rules, return.

Not handling immigration properly makes the USA miss its biggest opportunity for North American cooperation. Politicians should worry more about Mexico becoming unsafe and find creative ways to make Canada, Mexico, and the USA work together in energy, labour, and manufacturing. With better immigration policies, we can relocate supply chains to Mexico, strengthen energy grids in California and Texas by trading energy with Canada and Mexico, and create opportunities for neighbours to prosper, boosting the US economy. But until Americans trust that the USA controls its borders, they may not support these cooperation opportunities.

The world that the USA and its friends made after World War II made the USA safer and richer. But we must remember that if the USA doesn’t make sure this global order is followed, someone else will, probably China. If China takes charge, the world could become dangerous. China, along with its authoritarian allies like Russia and Iran, might gather enough military and economic power to force a repressive vision on the world. To make things better, the USA should rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, make and approve other trade agreements, spend more on defence while fixing entitlements and reducing national debt, secure the US.-Mexican border, and help countries fighting for their freedom. These are big goals.

Fred Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, says people don’t want to die for the international order because it’s too vague. But convincing voters to support a foreign policy that helps other countries might not be as hard as politicians think. They should focus on concrete arguments based on USA national interest. The Biden Administration and some Republican leaders are making misleading appeals that say internationalism makes the USA weaker or that caring about the US national interest means ignoring the world. This is not true. The choices the USA makes internationally affect its own well-being. Right now, leaders are making confusing foreign policy decisions that make the country less safe and less prosperous, and fixing them will be difficult later on.

The USA is divided politically, and many people are confused and disappointed. A Pew poll from June-July 2023 found that only 16 percent of Americans trust the federal government, the lowest in 70 years. Only 10 percent feel hopeful about politics. In an August Wall Street Journal poll, 93 percent of likely Republican voters thought the USA is headed in the wrong direction. These are not good results, but they also present an opportunity for good policies because people are clearly unhappy.

The solution is not to adopt policies that give up on trade, weaken the military, leave the US-Mexican border in chaos, and stop helping deserving allies. Americans still want the USA to be a leader in the world for the sake of the country and their own safety and prosperity. US leaders need to prove they know how to do it.


Dr Muhammad Akram Zaheer
Dr Muhammad Akram Zaheer
The writer has a PhD in Political Science and can be reached at [email protected]


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