If the US abandoned Ukraine and cut off crucial aid, it'd be an "own goal," the CIA director said.
William J. Burns said the US supporting Ukraine was a modest investment with significant returns.
With aid tied up in Congress, the US and Ukraine's next steps have critical implications.
Should the US walk away from the war in Ukraine and abandon it as it attempts to fend off the Russians, it would be an "own goal of historic proportions," the CIA director said.
The warning comes as new, crucial aid is held up by Republicans in Congress. It's a critical time for the US, which has contributed a significant amount of aid to Ukraine, to question its vested interests in seeing a stronger Ukraine and a weaker Russia.
In an opinion article published Tuesday in Foreign Affairs, William J. Burns, the director of the CIA, wrote that Putin's war had already severely impacted Russia in a variety of ways, such as isolating it globally and damaging its military and economy. He added that Putin's efforts to modernize the Russian military had suffered as a result of this devastating, high-casualty conflict.
"At least 315,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded, two-thirds of Russia's prewar tank inventory has been destroyed, and Putin's vaunted decades-long military modernization program has been hollowed out," Burns wrote. "All this is a direct result of Ukrainian soldiers' valor and skill, backed up by Western support."
The war isn't over, though. Russia is launching offensives on multiple fronts, and despite losses, the operations continue. Russia's defense industry is on a war footing, and support from pariah states such as North Korea and Iran is fueling its war efforts. Ukraine is holding the line, but its defense is strained by shortages in ammunition and other supplies. Putin appears to be gearing up for a longer war that will require Ukraine to receive committed and stable support from the West if it's going to survive the fight.
Burns said there were many benefits for the US to continue supporting Ukraine, a "relatively modest investment with significant geopolitical returns."
Among other benefits, he said that with more ammunition and weapons aid, which translates to a greater ability to resist, Ukraine would be in a stronger position should it opt to negotiate a deal with Russia.
"It offers a chance to ensure a long-term win for Ukraine and a strategic loss for Russia; Ukraine could safeguard its sovereignty and rebuild, while Russia would be left to deal with the enduring costs of Putin's folly," Burns wrote.
A weakened Russia licking its wounds for years to come may offer some sense of peace to NATO members and other nations concerned about an increasingly aggressive Putin invading them. And the US would be able to shift its focus to tensions elsewhere, such as the Taiwan Strait.
There's no guarantee, but Burns presented a bleaker alternative.
"For the United States to walk away from the conflict at this crucial moment and cut off support to Ukraine would be an own goal of historic proportions," Burns wrote; effectively, it would allow Russia to achieve its goal of conquering Ukraine or forcing it into an unfavorable peace deal, leaving Putin emboldened and more aggressive.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned about that exact scenario previously, including to US lawmakers back in December. During a visit to Washington, DC, the Ukrainian leader pleaded for more US aid and explained that if Russia took Ukraine, Putin wouldn't stop there.
Such aggression would draw the US into a much larger, costlier war than the one it's supporting in Ukraine right now, experts and analysts have argued. But aid is still held up in Congress.
The latest aid package to Ukraine has been on hold since October, when Republicans blocked it, along with assistance to Israel.
Since December, Republicans and Democrats have been working on a bipartisan bill that includes the $111 billion aid package for both nations, as well as stricter border security and immigration measures. But it remains unclear whether such a deal will have enough support, particularly from former President Donald Trump's allies, to pass.
Read the original article on Business Insider