Former US President George W. Bush will hold a public conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky next week with the aim of underscoring the importance of the US continuing to support Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.
The event, which will take place in Dallas and be open to the public, comes amid questions about the willingness of the former president’s Republican Party to maintain support for Ukraine.
“Ukraine is the frontline in the struggle for freedom and democracy. It’s literally under attack as we speak, and it is vitally important that the United States provide the assistance, military and otherwise to help Ukraine defend itself,” David Kramer, the managing director for global policy at the George W. Bush Institute, told CNN. “President Bush believes in standing with Ukraine.”
The Struggle for Freedom event will take place on Wednesday, in partnership with the Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy, at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
This will be the first public discussion between Zelensky – whose participation will be virtual – and the former president, following a private meeting they had earlier this year. After that initial meeting Bush called Zelensky the “Winston Churchill of our time.”
The Ukrainian government has been vocal in citing their dire need for continued military and economic assistance as the war rages on, even as the US has poured more than $18 billion into the war so far.
Kramer, acknowledging isolationist factions in both the Republican and Democratic parties, said that providing continued support for Ukraine is in the best interests of the US as a whole.
“It’s a message for the country that it is in US interest to support Ukraine. It actually is an issue where I think we need to put party politics aside and recognize that US support for Ukraine is vitally important. It gives Ukraine an opportunity to win this war,” Kramer explained.
“There are those on both sides of the aisle who say this is none of our business, we have enough problems at home, why are we spending money on these things? And our view is that actually, it is our business because these do these affect us, and they can affect average Americans,” he added.
Questions have risen about how long lawmakers will on board to continue providing high levels of support.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – who is hoping to take over as House speaker next year – suggested last month that Republicans might pull back funding for Ukraine but then made efforts to clarify that he was just calling for greater oversight of any federal dollars. And a group of progressive Democrats recently told the Biden administration that support for Ukraine couldn’t come without a concerted push towards a diplomatic end, but they backed off that position after facing intense blowback.
“If Russia and Putin have not stopped in Ukraine, who knows where else they’ll go? Let’s never forget that Europe has seen two world wars,” Kramer said.
Another democratic stronghold that the West is worried about is Taiwan, due to concerns that China is trying to speed up efforts to seize the island. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will also take part in the event next week. She will deliver a recorded message, in which she is expected to underscore that the struggle for freedom is a global challenge.
“My guess is that there will be some overlap probably in the broad themes that she and President Zelensky will touch on, which is that they are the island of democracy that is thriving, and wants to live in peace, and be left alone, and yet faces this enormous threat not too far away,” Kramer said. “Taiwan lives every day under threat from attack, in one form or another, from the Communist Party in China.”