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The ultimate cost of the war in Ukraine: “It’s never just about that one place,” U.S Rep. Elissa Slotkin speaks out

September 2, 2022

Rep. Elissa Slotkin hosted a town hall at Michigan State University on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022 to address the importance of continued support for Ukraine since the Russian invasion of the country in February. She stressed activism and media attention to keep the conflict in the public eye and therefore on the congress room floor.

U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan’s eighth congressional district spoke to town hall attendees about the importance of military, financial and humanitarian support for Ukraine on Sept. 1.

The town hall was hosted in collaboration with the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee of Michigan, Michigan State University’s Ukrainian Students Organization and the MSU Center for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (CERES).

While working in the Pentagon during the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea, Slotkin was in charge of providing assistance to Ukraine. The U.S. ineffectively released classified information regarding the build-up of Russian troops leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"What was incredible was the Ukrainian response once it became clear that the Russians were invading … it demonstrated, I think for the first time in a long time, that will to fight can be just as important, if not more important than training,” Slotkin said.

She said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the most bipartisan issue she’s worked on in Congress and this bipartisanship played an important role in pushing President Joe Biden’s administration further than they originally planned.

In July, Slotkin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine with a small bipartisan delegation.

“This is a leader who is meeting the moment for his country," Slotkin said. "It is a country in war … and this is a man who despite having a very unusual history in getting him to the presidency, has risen to the occasion.”

Slotkin said the Ukrainian military was “scrappy” in learning the mechanisms and how to use weaponry from the U.S with no training on how to use American weaponry systems while asking for greater diversity in weapons with larger ranges and American military advisors for operations in Southern Ukraine.

"Right now, Congress is still supportive of what's going on in Ukraine." Slotkin said, "But I have to be honest with you that Americans are very gung-ho at the start of wars but lose attention span very quickly ... it is extremely important that we keep it alive in the media.”

Dr. Amna Mahmood, who is a part of MSU’s higher education and professional development programs, asked Slotkin whether there is a possibility for the U.S. to have a direct military presence in Ukraine. Slotkin said that there are currently no military advisors in Ukraine.

“If we put in 25 American military advisors in uniform and there is an attack by the Russians, and they were killed… the American people would be demanding that we escalate with the Russians, and all of a sudden, we find ourselves in a cycle of escalation that gets worse and worse and worse," Slotkin said. "It does increase the stakes."

Slotkin said the ultimate cost of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the ending of human life, the fundamental threat to democracy and worldwide instability driven by price hikes on food and oil for every country.

Although there is no direct American presence in Ukraine, Slotkin said the war is personal for Michiganders and Americans. She said if the U.S. doesn't stop an authoritarian government from attacking neighboring democracies, it will "pay now or pay later."

“That's different than sending U.S. men and women to go and fight (in Ukraine),” Slotkin said. “We haven't done that and I don't support that. But I do support allowing (the country) to defend themselves.”

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