Two years later, Arizona lawmakers remain divided on Ukraine support

Two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, members of Arizona’s
congressional delegation remain just as divided as ever on what role the
U.S. should play in the war as it enters its third year.

While many of the state’s Republicans are increasing their calls to
take a hard look at the $75 billion in aid so far, and a pending request
for $60 billion more, Democrats have steadfastly called for aid to
continue, saying it is now “more important now than ever.”

“Two years in, it is more clear than ever what (Russian President
Vladimir) Putin’s intent is, and it’s not to stop at Ukraine. It is to
have Russian troops march forward into NATO territory,” Rep. Greg
Stanton, D-Phoenix, said Friday. “That is unacceptable to America.”

But some GOP members said it is not in the best interest of the U.S. to get further involved in a war that continues to drag on.

“After nearly two years, no one can still tell me what victory looks
like and what America’s national interests are,” said Rep. Andy Biggs,
R-Gilbert, in a social media post Friday. “If we cannot answer these basic questions, we shouldn’t be shelling out $100+ billion to Ukraine.”

The debate comes as the Biden administration announced economic
sanctions against an additional 500 organizations and individuals in
Russia “for its repression, human rights abuses and aggression against
Ukraine,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday.

The new sanctions come just a week after the death last week of
Russian dissident Alexei Navalny in a Siberian prison, a death President
Joe Biden blamed
squarely on Putin. The new U.S. sanctions bring the total number of
economic targets in Russia to more than 4,000 since the start of the
war.

The war began on Feb. 23, 2022, when Russian troops that had been
massing at the border rolled into Ukraine and began a drive toward the
capital, Kyiv. But the invasion bogged down and Ukrainian forces quickly
pushed the Russians back to the eastern edge of the country, which
Russia had invaded along with Crimea in 2014. The war has moved little
since.

The invasion brought a flood of military and other
support from Western nations, but none more so than the U.S., which has
sent more than $75 billion in military, economic and humanitarian
assistance, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Biden administration has since asked for another $60 billion in aid, as part of a $95 billion
package that would also send aid to Israel and Taiwan. But that funding
struggled in the Senate, which passed it Feb. 13 after weeks of debate,
and it now faces even stronger opposition in the House.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Bullhead City, has been skeptical of Ukraine funding
since the beginning – offering at one point to arrange an Arizona
summit between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He did
not respond to a request for comment Friday, but he made his position
clear in an October statement on the administration’s request for a
joint package of Ukrainian and Israeli aid.

“I will vote for necessary funding to assist Israel in its time of
need but if it is combined with billions more for Ukraine, I will vote
no,” Gosar wrote
then. “I have voted against every dime spent supporting the proxy war
in Ukraine and I will not start now just because it is wrapped in an
Israeli flag.”

Many GOP opponents of Ukrainian aid were like Rep. Eli Crane, R-Oro
Valley, who said America has problems at home that it should address
first. He said Democrats “ignore our border, disrespect your tax
dollars, and refuse to push for peace.”

Not all of Arizona’s Republicans have opposed aid for Ukraine.
Republican Reps. David Schweikert of Fountain Hills and Juan Ciscomani
of Tucson have both voted for Ukrainian aid, receiving an “A” rating
from the Republicans for Ukraine coalition. The same coalition gave Crane, Gosar and Biggs an “F,” while Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, got a “C” for voting against one aid package.

Like Stanton, Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego of Phoenix and Raúl
Grijalva of Tucson have continued in their support for Ukraine and their
condemnation of Putin’s actions.

The state’s senators, independent Kyrsten Sinema and Democrat Mark
Kelly, did not respond to requests for comment Friday, but have
consistently supported aid for Ukraine and both voted for the latest package on Feb. 13.

Stanton pointed to the death of Navalny as evidence of what “Putin is
willing to do in order to stay as an authoritarian leader and …
reestablish the old Soviet Union.” Not supporting Ukraine now would be
“one of the worst foreign policy mistakes in American history,” he said.

“(It) would be a mistake that we would forever regret for years and
decades from now that we did not do what we needed to do to support our
ally, Ukraine, in the fight against tyranny, the fight against
authoritarianism, and the fight to protect the rest of Europe,” Stanton
said.