Tom France

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began just over two years ago, and the devastating war that has followed has been a catastrophe for Ukrainians and Russians alike. Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed, tens of thousands more have been wounded and maimed, and an almost incomprehensible level of destruction has occurred across much of Ukraine and parts of Russia.

While the immense human and material toll of the war cannot be undone, the fate of democracy, freedom and the overall peace of the world still hangs in the balance as Ukraine continues to resist Vladimir’ Putin’s brutal invasion.

The hard-right members of Congress and Donald Trump have now tipped this balance against peace and freedom. They have totally abandoned the Reagan-era commitment to global leadership in favor of placating dictators and rewarding violence and aggression. After months of delays and false promises of compromise, their current tactic is block a vote in the House of Representatives on desperately needed aid, even as Ukraine reels under the force of Russian attacks.

Montana’s Republican members of Congress are part of this right-wing gang. Senator Steve Daines, once a strong champion for Ukraine, has taken his orders from Donald Trump and is now voting against further aid. Montana congressmen Ryan Zinke and Matt Rosendale have long opposed Ukrainian aid and are now embracing the vote-denying strategy of House Republican leaders. Only Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester has stood tall for backing Ukraine and sustaining America’s leadership in the fight against Russian aggression.

The current Congressional impasse is depressingly like the tactics Republican leaders used in the 2023 Montana Legislature, where I co-authored a bipartisan resolution that proclaimed Montana’s support for the Ukrainian people, opposed Russia’s war of aggression, and backed the U.S. policy of supplying arms and aid to the Ukrainian government. Despite a compelling hearing and the support of many Republican legislators, Republican House leaders shut down discussion by tabling the bill in committee, which prevented it from reaching the House floor.

Much of the committee testimony highlighted the brutal impacts of the war. Several Ukrainians told stories of their families being torn apart and their homeland being destroyed. Perhaps more compelling, however, was the testimony of military and diplomatic experts and their concern for world security.  If Ukraine falls and aggression is rewarded, the risk of war will increase for nations from eastern Europe to Taiwan and the structure for world peace that has existed for decades will be undermined.

These facts have not changed in the last year. Ukraine is far from Montana, but its fate will shape the world we live in for years. Montanans should demand that our Congressional representatives support Ukrainian aid and allow a vote on it to move forward. The fate of a nation hangs in the balance, and the echoes of American abandonment will reverberate far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Representative Tom France represents House District 94 (Missoula) in the Montana Legislature.