Lauren Boebert critical of Ukraine aid but can she sway Congress? Here’s what Colorado experts say

Ukrainian allies are pledging to send more money and sophisticated weapons to help the eastern European country fend off the ongoing Russian invasion, though Western Slope Congresswoman Lauren Boebert said America has already sent too much help.

“We’ve sent billions of dollars,” Boebert told The Denver Post. “We don’t know where that money is going.”

The far-right congresswoman remains one of the loudest voices opposing American aid for Ukraine, underscoring a need for the money — more than $100 billion — to solve domestic problems. Boebert might also have more leverage in the matter now that Republicans hold such a slim majority in the House. She flexed that newfound power in early January as she sought to prevent U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy from becoming the next Speaker of the House.

Despite Boebert’s opposition to the aid, America benefits from sending billions to Ukraine, political scientists in Colorado said. The money is a proactive investment to avoid even more bloodshed, an international deterrent for similar invasions around the world and offers an image boost after America hit an all-time low in global opinion in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.

Boebert argues that instead of sending billions to Ukraine in perpetuity, Congress should work to better protect the southern border, curb the fentanyl crisis, stifle inflation and reduce the price of groceries.

“This is not a priority for American citizens,” Boebert said of the international aid.

Boebert’s opposition to the spending, particularly to the Ukrainian aid, perhaps culminated in December when Zelensky appeared before Congress. As the Ukrainian president pleaded for help, the congresswoman sat, looking at her phone, while the chamber offered Zelensky a standing ovation.

But the congresswoman’s argument fails to consider what America receives from the money it sends to Ukraine, Dominik Stecuła, a political scientist with Colorado State University, said.

“When you read the price tag without context, obviously it’s a lot of money, no doubt about it,” Stecuła said. “But relatively speaking, for us, it’s not as much money as some of these opponents purport it is, especially in the context of what we get in return.”

First, Stecuła noted that America is one of many western countries sending money to Ukraine as part of a coalition. On its face, helping to repel the Russian invasion shores up former President Ronald Reagan’s vision of the country as a shining city on a hill, a global bastion of democracy.

“This is a pretty blatant case of imperial aggression and we are helping people who want to keep their country independent,” Stecuła said. “This ultimately promotes American values. This is really about freedom.”

The aid counts as an effective public relations move for eastern Europeans watching as America helps Ukraine, Stecuła, a native of Poland, added.

“You’re fostering a generation of people who will love America for what we’ve done,” Stecuła said. “It showcases that we are one of the good guys.”

But from a more concrete angle, Stecuła said helping Ukraine’s army repel Russian invaders drains one of America’s adversaries of its economic strength and manpower and prevents the war from spreading into new countries.

Should Russian soldiers move into the Baltic states, Poland or Romania, for example, Stecuła said American involvement must increase. Those countries, like the United States, belong to NATO which means they’ve pledged to defend each other if they’re invaded. That sort of escalation could end with “direct American casualties,” he said.

The countries providing money, training and weapons to Ukraine are also creating an international deterrent for other global leaders like China’s President Xi Jinping, who has long desired to quash Taiwan’s claims of sovereignty, Stecuła said.

President Joe Biden pledged in September that America would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.

But China’s ambitions don’t stop with Taiwan, Holly Oberle, a political scientist at Colorado Mesa University, noted. They likely extend to Hong Kong, India and Tibet.

Other right-wing nationalist leaders like Narendra Modi, of India, Viktor Orbán, of Hungary, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of Turkey, are all watching as well, Oberle said.

Congress approved $40 billion in aid to Ukraine in May and another $45 billion package last month. For context, that $85 billion would be about 11% of America’s $742 billion military budget for 2022.

America will likely have to send more money in the coming months or years, Oberle said, because Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing no signs of relenting.

Boebert’s opposition to pouring more money into Ukraine appears likely to continue but whether she’ll be able to influence the rest of Congress likely depends on how the packages come together.

A standalone aid proposal, like the $40 billion Congress approved in May, would have broad, bipartisan support, Oberle said. That vote passed the House 368 to 57, so Boebert’s “no” vote fell in the minority.

But the most recent $45 billion was packaged inside a more controversial $1.7 trillion government spending bill, which the House passed on a much slimmer margin of 225 to 201.

The slimmer the margin, the more power Boebert would have to influence the vote, Oberle said.

The congresswoman’s position also isn’t a new concept, Oberle said. Her genre of American individualism is a continuation of former President Donald Trump’s messaging.

“She’s following the Trump model,” Oberle said. “That’s, at the end of the day, what she wants most, to remain visible.”

Related Articles

Politics |

What Lauren Boebert got from her fight against Kevin McCarthy

Opinion: Boebert’s teapot tempest won’t fix Congress, but I sure wish it would
Lauren Boebert’s backers urge her to “tone down the nasty rhetoric”
Will Lauren Boebert’s opposition to Kevin McCarthy help or hurt her politically?
Lauren Boebert bucks Donald Trump’s push for a Kevin McCarthy speakership

Ukrainian officials asked allies this month for a swathe of tanks to fend off Russian attacks, though American and German officials have not committed to sending the equipment, Reuters reported.

According to the report, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, has been reluctant to send weapons that could be seen as provoking Moscow. Many of Berlin’s Western allies say that concern is misplaced, with Russia already fully committed to war, while Russia has repeatedly said Western weapons transfers would prolong the war and increase suffering in Ukraine.

Stay up-to-date with Colorado Politics by signing up for our weekly newsletter, The Spot.