Foreign Relations Chairman: 'Ukraine Is a Test for the West'; 'Not Necessarily' a Proxy War

( – Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) says “Ukraine is a test for the West,” even though it is not a NATO member.

Nevertheless, the United States is pouring billions of dollars of military aid and humanitarian assistance into Ukraine to help it defend itself, and dozens of American lawmakers and administration officials are traipsing over there in symbolic shows of support.

President Biden has so far refused to send U.S. troops into the country.

“I think that what we are doing and what we will continue to do is help Ukraine ultimately have victory and defeat Russia,” Menendez told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“Ukraine is a test for the West. It’s a test for the international order. Can one country — in this case, Russia under Putin — erase the borders of Europe, change a country by force or will the international order prevail? And I think that’s what at stake here, regardless of Putin’s declarations.”


Host Chuck Todd asked Menendez if Russia is correct in saying that this is a proxy war between the West and Russia. “Do you accept that description?” he asked Menendez.

“No, not necessarily,” Menendez replied:

“Look, I — I’m not sure what was in Secretary Austin’s mind.”

(Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, following a recent visit to Ukraine, said the U.S. goal is not just to help Ukraine win. “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said a week ago.)

Menendez said he think what Austin meant is, “that if Russia cannot defeat Ukraine with a much larger Army, with greater sophisticated weaponry and a much-vaunted military, then it has to think about creating acts of aggression against any other country, in Europe or anyplace else. And that certainly is degrading Russia’s ability or thoughts about their ability to do so.

“I would think that that’s what the secretary meant. But at the end of the day, yes, we don’t want to see Russia go into Moldova. We don’t want it to go, say, into a NATO country — in Poland, or Lithuania or any other such countries. So in that respect, I think that’s what the secretary meant.”

Menendez said he doubts the U.S. strategy will change if Russia expands the war in Ukraine’s neighbor, Moldova.

“Well, look, I think that the Ukrainians care about what’s going to happen in Transnistria (Moldova) because it’s another attack point against Ukraine. But…I don’t think that’s going to change our calculus about our direct engagement.

“We need to keep our eye on the ball. And that is about helping…Ukrainians ultimately be able to defeat the butcher of Moscow. And if we do that, the world will be safer, the international order will be preserved. And others who are looking at Ukraine will have to think twice.

“And this international response that President Biden has led and this new effort by Europe to have an oil embargo — a gas — a gas and oil embargo against Russia is going to be one of the most strategic blunders Putin will have made for his country and shows the resolve of the West, something we have not seen in the past.”

President Biden is asking Congress to approve another $33 billion in funding for military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine on top of the $13 billion already or almost spent.

“Is there a limit in how much support we’re going to give Ukraine for this? Or as long as we think we can win this war, we’ll do what it takes?” Todd asked Menendez:

“I think we will do what it takes to see Ukraine win because it’s not just about Ukraine, it is about the international order,” Menendez said:

“If Ukraine does not win, if Putin can ultimately not only succeed in the Donbas but then be emboldened maybe to go further. If he strikes a country under NATO, under our treaty obligations with NATO, then we would be directly engaged.

“And so, stopping Russia from getting to that point is critically of interest to us as well as the world so that we don’t have to send our sons and daughters into battle. And I think that ability not to have to send our sons and daughters into battle is priceless.”


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