Warner: There’s an argument being made that US assistance to Ukraine may be weakening our own military and the support we give to other nations. There was a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimating it’ll take five years to replenish the supply of javelin missiles provided to Ukraine, for instance. As a member of the subcommittee on war fighters support, what’s your reaction?
Crow: Yeah, there’s no doubt that our supplies and inventories have been heavily tapped for this and that our manufacturing and supply chain capability is being stressed. We’re making moves to address that. This notion that we have to just hoard and hold on to all of these things for some future conflict, the fight is now. I mean, the war is now. There is no future conflict. The conflict that we need to help Ukraine fight and win is this one. Imagine a world if Vladimir Putin succeeds and Ukraine falls. That means that additional countries will fall because he’ll feel emboldened and he’ll go after Latvia or he’ll go after Lithuania. He’ll go after Estonia. He’ll continue to go after Belarus. He’ll go after Poland. He won’t stop because this is who he is and this is what his goal and his grand vision is. This will continue.
But then autocrats and dictators around the world from Iran to Bashar al-Assad and Syria, to China, they will all see that the West couldn’t do this. They will feel like they have a blank check to do the same to their weaker neighbors. Taiwan will eventually fall if we’re not able to help Ukraine win. This is not a world that anybody wants to live in. This is not a world that we don’t want to raise our kids in because it would be a volatile, dangerous, unstable and less prosperous world.
Warner: You’re now in the minority in the U.S. House. Is this a view that is shared across the aisle? Where is the tension now with Republicans in control? What does it mean that you have less power than you did before?
Crow: Well, this is my first time in the minority, Ryan, so I’m still grappling with that and figuring out what that looks like. I remain on some of those bipartisan committees in Congress, the Armed Services Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Intelligence Committee. That’s where I’ve done all my work the last two terms. Those committees are incredibly bipartisan. A lot of the work is done on a consensus basis.
I will say there is huge support for Ukraine in the United States Congress. Let me just put some perspective on this. There are 435 members of the house and there’s maybe two dozen, maybe two and a half dozen people who are vocally against providing support to Ukraine. That means there are over 400 who are in support of it. That is a vast majority. I just took a trip to Europe. I’m part of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which is NATO’s Congress. That trip I took largely with Republican colleagues, and they’re firmly behind the effort to help Ukraine fight and win.
Warner: Where is the tension if it exists right now between Democrats and Republicans on this issue?
Crow: Well, a lot of the Republicans are actually the ones that are pushing to do more, that want to see increased support and want to see a change in the nature of support, longer-range rockets, more advanced fighters. That push is coming in a bipartisan way, and I’ve joined with a lot of them on that push. I think some of the tension will be just on the nature of oversight. We all take the oversight of the money that we’ve allocated to the Ukraine effort very seriously. I take it seriously. In fact, I authored and led a provision in the DOD budget to compel an enhanced inspector general oversight over the aid that’s provided in Ukraine. Where I differ a little bit is some folks that might deal with disinformation or misinformation and say that there’s been diversion or there’s been abuse. There are no known instances of diversion of U.S. weapons by the Ukrainians, period.
Warner: Is there a limit in your mind as to how much the U.S. should commit and for how long? I mean, just given so many of its own domestic economic issues, and I know you see this country’s economic future as intertwined with Ukraine’s, but is there a limit?
Crow: Yeah, because we are intertwined economically and democratically, I think that’s the wrong way to look at it, to put a dollar limit on it. That’s what Vladimir Putin would love to see. He’s playing a long game here. In his view, he wants to draw this out for as long as possible. Let me use this example: If you get in the head of Vladimir Putin, I’ve talked to a lot of our former diplomats about this, our intelligence officials, Vladimir Putin believes in this notion of perpetual struggle. He talks about this notion of struggle, and that’s the word he uses, struggle, against the west. This is the status quo that he’s interested in maintaining forever, because as long as there’s struggle, he can maintain his own power and he can build this revisionist Russian Empire that he wants to build.
We obviously don’t want perpetual struggle. We want this to end, which is why we need to frontload our support to Ukraine and essentially make them a porcupine that cannot be swallowed and to ensure their sovereignty and their independence. We’re playing off of different timelines right now, and that’s why we need to be very aggressive in providing support as quickly as possible and as much as possible.
Warner: A porcupine that cannot be swallowed. What is the end game then? What does victory look like? Is it a Russian withdrawal? That seems, I don’t know if unlikely is the word, a pipe dream? I mean, if this is a man who’s interested in perpetual struggle, isn’t that necessarily what he’s going to get if he always resists?
Crow: Yeah, about a week ago, Ryan, I actually tweeted out a roadmap for what I think this ultimately would look like. The first step is that the Russian military needs to be degraded so that it can’t conduct offensive operations outside of its borders anymore. The Ukrainians have been remarkably effective at doing that. Vladimir Putin actually does not have the same army that he had a year ago. He’s lost about 60% of his combat power and his military forces. Over half of his military is gone. He’s trying to rebuild that. Step one is continuing to support the Ukrainians in degrading the Russian military.
Step two is preventing Russia from recapitalizing and rebuilding its military, and that’s largely a function of sanctions. Putting sanctions on the Russians so they don’t have the technology, they don’t have the raw materials, the supply chain to rebuild that industrial base and that equipment that’s been lost.
Step three is helping modernize the Ukrainian military. This is the porcupine analogy. We want to modernize them, equip them with more advanced weapons, and train them to be a modern advanced force that can conduct what’s called combined arms fire and maneuver warfare, which is something the Russians don’t know how to handle and can’t fight against. We need to continue to build the capacity of the Ukrainian military, which again is like building an airplane in flight because they’re fighting a war and they’re also modernizing at the same time.
The fourth step, and this is really important, after Ukrainians can push the Russians out of Ukrainian territory to some extent, then there has to be a security guarantee, a security umbrella, and that might be some combination of the United States, Germany, France, the UK, maybe the European Union, banding together to come to an agreement that we won’t allow Ukraine to be invaded again. If we will, we’ll step in to help them like we have in the past.
Warner: Gosh, that fourth item is not small. I mean, Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it sounds like you would defend it almost as one, which is an attack against one is an attack against all. Is that a no-fly zone? Is that the start of a global war? Of course, the presence of nuclear weapons plays big into number four.
Crow: Right now it’s not a no-fly zone. The Ukrainians have applied for EU membership, membership in the European Union. They want to apply. They stated their intent to apply for NATO membership, and NATO has an open door policy that says any free and democratic nation can apply. They want what’s called a membership accessions plan, a map from NATO that tells them the steps that they need to comply with in order to become a member. In both cases of both EU and NATO, now remember, NATO is a defensive military alliance and the EU is a political, economic, and military alliance. It’s three parts to the EU, so it’s a little bit more complicated than NATO. In both instances, you cannot become a member of either of those alliances if you’re at war, so Ukraine is precluded from membership right now. That’s why we need to end the war and end hostilities and then outline for them what they need to do to comply with the requirements for membership so they can ultimately become a member, which I support.
But until that happens, there needs to be some kind of security guarantee. Your last point on nuclear weapons, it is true that we have to be very mindful and very careful about that. We’ve seen no moves in the strategic posture of the Russian nuclear arsenal, but we’re keeping a close eye on it.