When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Congress for more assistance, he "made the case that Ukraine was defending Europe and defending the United States," says USIP's Ambassador William Taylor. And with Ukrainians more determined than ever, such aid could help usher in a Ukrainian victory over Russia.
U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.
Julie Mason: Ambassador William B. Taylor joins me now. He's vice president for strategic stability and security at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. Ambassador, good morning. Welcome back.
Ambassador Taylor: Julie. Thank you. It's great to be here with you.
Julie Mason: That was an interesting visit from Zelenskyy recently. What did you make of it? What do you think he came away with?
Ambassador Taylor: So, he came away knowing that he had delivered the message to the United States and to Americans that Ukraine was very appreciative of all the support that the Americans, both our Congress and our administration, the American people, very appreciative of all the support that he's been receiving. And he made the case why we should provide more. I thought, Julie, I thought he made it very well. We all saw the reception that he got in the Congress, winning over even some skeptical people who weren't enthusiastic at the beginning of his speech, and were standing and applauding at the end of the speech. I thought he did a brilliant job of making the case for why we should support Ukraine, as it defends itself against the Russian attack. But he also made the case that Ukraine is defending Europe and indeed defending the United States. And his great line about "our assistance is not charity, it's an investment," I thought he made, I mean, I thought he made a very good case.
Julie Mason: But looking ahead, that funding for Ukraine could be in a bit of trouble.
Ambassador Taylor: You know, I'm not sure, Julie, first of all, at the end of the last Congress, that big appropriation, that big bill that went through right at the end, with $44-$45 billion worth of assistance for Ukraine, bipartisan support, overwhelming bipartisan support, both the House and the Senate, that is going to go a long way into this year, number one. Number two, I am optimistic that the Congress –
House and Senate – will continue to be overwhelmingly supportive of assistance for Ukraine, overwhelmingly supportive of Ukraine in its battle against the Russians. I think this is going to be bipartisan, still, even in the new Congress, as well as in the old Congress.
Julie Mason: Putin used his year-end address to Russia to try to sort of renew support for his limited military action in Ukraine. I wonder how successful he's been.
Ambassador Taylor: So far, not very successful at all, Julie. As you can see, when he had to abandon his fiction, that this was just special military operation, and he had to call up reserves, he had to go through a draft and people fled the country, Russians fled their country in droves. You know, hundreds of thousands of Russians left the country because they don't support this war. They don't support this war. So, I think he's got big problems going into this year.
Julie Mason: Right. And when the dust clears on this thing and the war is over, what's Russia going to look like, Ambassador? As you mentioned, he lost all those people. And these were the elites, these were a people of education, people of money, people of means, they got out when they could. And what's going to be left in that country? It seems like all the tech people left too. It was just a massive exodus.
Ambassador Taylor: Massive exodus. And you're right, he lost the kinds of people that Russia is going to need going forward to build back their country. Their country is hammered by these sanctions, their economy is gradually declining and will continue to decline with, as you say, the lack of these qualified people, and the sanctions that are going to stay on Russia as long as the Russians continue to threaten the Ukrainians. So, I think the Russian forecast, the Russian prospects, are not good.
Julie Mason: No, I mean, perhaps their days as, you know, a reigning world power could be limited after this.
Ambassador Taylor: Probably. President Putin has trouble in his future. When Russian leaders lose, as he is losing now, and I predict will lose this next year, when Russian leaders lose, they don't stay in power very long. So, his days may be numbered.
Julie Mason: Now we are hearing about some other pressures on Ukraine. There was some really interesting reporting over the weekend about the limits of patience in surrounding countries in Europe for refugees from Ukraine. They're starting to feel done with that.
Ambassador Taylor: So, the neighbors, in particular, the European neighbors of Ukraine, have been amazingly supportive, welcoming to refugees coming from Ukraine. Amazing. I mean, millions have come into Poland, millions have come into Eastern Europe. And I went through Poland on my way to Kyiv in September, and [there were] no refugee camps, Julie. [There are] millions of Ukrainian refugees in that country, [but] no refugee camps. Why? Because they're all in homes. They're all in Polish homes, and they're going to Polish schools and hospitals, and getting jobs. So, you're right, they've been amazingly welcoming. It can't go on forever, that's clear, but so far, the Europeans have continued to be welcoming to the Ukrainians.
Julie Mason: And Ambassador, what can you tell us about day-to-day life in Ukraine from what you've been able to see?
Ambassador Taylor: So, I was there in September, but I also stay very close in touch with friends of mine that I've met and seen all the time since 2006. And I was on the phone, I was texting back and forth, with a friend of mine two nights ago. She was telling me how she had been talking to her children and her grandchildren about, I was asking her, ‘What do you say to kids about this war?’ And she said, ‘You know, you just wouldn't believe how patriotic our kids are. The kids are as determined to win as their parents are.’ As you would expect. I mean, you know, kids and parents, you know, they feed off each other and they learn from each other, but the Ukrainians are so determined, and every attack, every missile attack, every attack on infrastructure, every time their energy goes out, which it did, by the way, while I was texting back and forth with her. Every time that happens, they're more determined, more angry than ever against the Russians. And so, they're gonna win, Julie. They're gonna win.
Julie Mason: Ambassador William B. Taylor, vice president for strategic stability and security at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Thank you so much for joining me.
Ambassador Taylor: Thank you, Julie. Thank you for having me.
Julie Mason: Have a great day.