Gen. Milley Calls Ukraine ‘an Important National Interest’ After Trump, Other 2024 Contenders Say It Isn’t

FILE - Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in
AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

The nation’s top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley, during a hearing on Wednesday, called Ukraine “an important national interest” of the United States, contradicting the views of the top 2024 Republican presidential contenders.

Asked what the strategic end state is for Ukraine, Milley said President Joe Biden had been “very clear” from the beginning.

“It’s very clear the strategic end state is the global rules-based international order that was put in place in 1945 is upheld,” he said. The loquacious general then gave an elaborate answer in which he called Ukraine “an important national interest.”

How do you do that? How do you know you’ve achieved that end state? You achieve that end state when Ukraine remains a free, sovereign, independent country with a territory intact and then, you know, the rules base was upheld. If that rules-based order, which is in its 80th year, if that goes out the window — and be very careful — we will be doubling our defense budgets at that point, because that will introduce not an era of great power competition, that will begin an era of great power conflict, and that will be extraordinarily dangerous for the whole world.

Ukraine is a fight for Ukraine, that’s existential for Ukraine. But for the rest of us, it’s a much bigger and important national interest, that’s fundamental to the United States to Europe and global security.

Milley’s defense comes after former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy all said Ukraine was not a vital national interest in response to a survey by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

There is also rising skepticism from Americans over U.S. support for Ukraine.

A February Pew Research poll showed that there was a decline in the share of Americans who view the Ukraine war as a major threat to U.S. interests.

A month after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 22, 2022, half of U.S. adults saw Russia’s invasion as a major threat to American interests. However, by January 2023, only 35% of Americans felt the same. There was a decline among both Republicans and Democrats, but among Republicans the decline was steeper.

Americans are also deeply divided on U.S. assistance to Ukraine, with 26% saying the U.S. was providing too much support, 31% saying it was providing the right amount, and 20% saying it was not providing enough, according to the poll.

Nonetheless, the U.S. is only deepening its support for the war by providing Abrams tanks and other advanced weapons systems that are expected to arrive on the battlefield soon.

Milley, during the hearing, also said the U.S. is training more than 5,000 Ukrainian soldiers in neighboring countries on a weekly basis.

In January, the U.S. had already trained more than 3,100 Ukrainian troops and had just started an expanded combat training program for Ukrainian forces in Germany, according to NPR. It is not clear how many Ukrainian forces the U.S. has trained to date.

The conflict has largely become a grueling war of attrition in the eastern part of Ukraine, but U.S. military is hoping that the training and influx of advanced Western weapons systems will change that dynamic.

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