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Joni Ernst: Ukraine's military desperately needs more lethal aid and Congress must step up

The shock and horror of Russian President Vladimir Putin's lawless and bloody invasion of Ukraine are giving way to the fog of war. Exact data on casualty counts, the progress of the Russian advance, and the durability of the Ukrainian resistance remain unclear. Still, if the Ukrainians continue to increase their rate of lethal weapons deployment as they have in the last 72 hours, resupply becomes extremely urgent.
The Ukrainian military is in dire need of more lethal aid today. If they don't get more weaponry, ammunition, communications equipment, and medical supplies, then the probability of Russian triumph in a matter of weeks will significantly increase.
Before invading, when weighing and determining his ultimate endgame, Putin wasn't worried about his army's capacity to eventually take Ukraine, mano a mano.
The Russian military is three times the size of Ukraine's, and they have an even greater weapons advantage over Ukrainian forces. Putin bet against the Biden administration's resolve to proactively shield the American economy from Russian influence, to reverse course on a doctrine of appeasement that drove our disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and, ultimately, our president's will to support and defend an agreement-bound partner.
America's commitment to Ukraine's independence is not a recent invention. It has been in place for close to thirty years.
I witnessed and experienced the growth of the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship from its infancy to today. In 1989, I visited Ukraine in its waning days of Soviet control as part of an agricultural student exchange program.
The American family's long-term prosperity and security is being tested in the streets of Kyiv and over Ukrainian skies.
I communed with Ukrainians desperate to break free of socialist economic structures and authoritarian restrictions on freedom of movement, employment, and speech. I vividly remember my conversations with the Ukrainians on the collective farm where I was staying.
On night one, they asked me two questions again and again. What's it like to be an American, and what's it like to be free? Two years later, Ukraine broke free and declared its independence from the Soviet Union.
Fast forward three years: Ukraine was still fragile, working through the challenges of establishing and sustaining democratic government while sitting atop the world's third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons abandoned in the final days of the Soviet Union.
So, the United States intervened. In exchange for protection by the greatest superpower in the history of the world, Ukraine dismantled and surrendered its entire nuclear armament. That agreement—known as the Budapest Agreement—made the world safer, and Ukraine became an economic and security partner to the United States.
Last week, Putin challenged the United States on the Budapest Agreement. Putin gambled that America’s treaties and obligations are no more valuable than the pieces of paper they're written on.
America is the greatest nation on the face of the planet. We stand for freedom. But our greatness and standing on the world stage are only as strong as our word. The American people know it, they believe it, and they're looking for us to do more.
Many of my fellow veterans of the Global War on Terrorism remember the Ukrainians fighting alongside us in that 20-year war. Over 80% of Americans want us to do more to bring down Putin, stand with Ukraine, and end this conflict.
The Biden administration’s inactivity before the invasion is inexcusable. They saw the Russian buildup on the Ukrainian border. They closely watched Putin's addresses to the Russian Parliament calling for the reunification of Russia and Ukraine.
In the days before the invasion, they openly admitted that Putin would roll over the Ukrainian border. Despite rock-solid intelligence, this administration failed to prevent a war or sufficiently arm our partner to defend themselves.
Nearly two weeks beyond the invasion, the United States' response remains tepid, halfhearted, and impassive to the Russian bear clamping down on a free and independent partner—even as American energy costs, food production and prices, and retirement accounts are feeling the impact of Putin's invasion.
That is why I am calling on Congress to do more as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence. Every day we do not provide additional ammunition to the Ukrainian army, lives are lost, and the cause of freedom is diminished. Instead of taking immediate action to provide lethal support to the people of Ukraine this week, Senate Democrats were focused on postal reform and an abortion on demand bill, while Ukrainians were dying by the hundreds. We cannot afford to delay any further.
This week, the Senate should immediately consider a Ukrainian aid package that will entirely focus on just that, Ukraine. To that end, on Monday, I will propose the Secretary of Defense mobilize existing equipment—including supplies meant for Afghanistan—to arm Ukraine.
My bill will deliver not just combat capability but logistics supplies, secure communications equipment, and medical kits that we have purchased and staged worldwide to secure our partners. Let me be clear about what this is – it is procured equipment and capabilities that are programmed, budgeted, contracted, purchased, and simply sitting in warehouses across the globe.
The Pentagon knows we have capabilities bought for the Afghans that could be loaded and flown to Poland and put in the hands of Ukrainians who are fighting for their lives and the future of their country as you read this.
My bill gives our military the authority to mobilize it now—all without spending a single additional dime of U.S. taxpayer money.
Every member of Congress takes an oath to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.' That vow compels us to protect the homeland, honor our commitments abroad, stand with freedom, and do what the American people sent us here to do.
The American family's long-term prosperity and security is being tested in the streets of Kyiv and over Ukrainian skies. It’s past time our president and our Congress take more action to support the defense of Ukraine.
Republican Joni Ernst represents Iowa in the United States Senate. She is the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate and a former commander in the Iowa Army National Guard and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Click HERE to read the op-ed as published in Fox News.