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Former Kansas Congressman Backs Renewed Effort to Arm and Fund Ukraine

A photo of former Kansas Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery in Ukraine. Slattery is standing near a window where sandbags have been piled up, due to the ongoing conflict in the war-torn country.
Courtesy of Jim Slattery
Former Kansas Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery in Ukraine, wearing his trademark cowboy boots and suit.

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Former Kansas Congressman Jim Slattery is applauding U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson’s commitment to breaking a months-long battle over renewing military aid to Ukraine. Slattery, a Democrat who represented the state’s 2nd Congressional District from 1983 to 1995, now heads Slattery Strategies, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm that counts some Ukrainian businesses among its clients.

Slattery says Johnson, a Republican, was smart to divide the $95 billion aid package approved by the U.S. Senate into three separate bills because it will make the process more transparent and easier to form coalitions of Republicans and Democrats to support each one. “I think it’s the right thing to do,” Slattery said. “It’s good government and I think, in this case, it’s good politics.”

One measure would provide about $61 billion to Ukraine. The other two include $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan.

Johnson is facing stiff opposition from some conservative Republicans who have threatened to oust him for prioritizing aid to Ukraine and Israel over the immigration crisis on America’s southern border. But if Democrats help Johnson clear the procedural hurdles to getting the bills on the floor, Slattery predicts they will easily pass. “If I had to guess today,” he said, “there will be 300 votes out of 435 in the House of Representatives for aid to Ukraine and probably 350 to 400 votes for Israel.”

Slattery’s involvement in Ukraine goes back two decades. He first traveled to the former Soviet republic in 2004 to serve as an election observer. A victory by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s handpicked candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, in that election sparked protests that came to be known as the Orange Revolution. Eventually, the initial results were thrown out and pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko was declared the winner.

In 2006, Slattery took his family to Ukraine for Christmas because he wanted his two sons to see firsthand what Ukrainians were willing to do “to achieve their own independence and freedom.”

Slattery has traveled to Ukraine more than 30 times over the past 20 years. He’s embarking this weekend on his fifth trip to embattled nation since the war with Russia began. Based on what he’s seen, Slattery disagrees with those who say Ukraine can’t win the war. “They will fight to the death,” he says, noting that Ukraine has used the aid provided by the United States and its European allies “to destroy 50 percent of Russia’s conventional military capability.”

Given that battlefield success, Slattery says the United States must continue to arm Ukraine. “It’s essential,” he says. “I cannot overemphasize it.”

Slattery says while the Ukrainians might not be able to reclaim all the ground taken by the Russians, they can outlast them. “The Russians are going to come to the point where they say, ‘let’s end this war,’” Slattery said.


Jim McLean has covered Kansas news for nearly half a century as a radio and newspaper reporter for various news outlets, including Kansas Public Radio and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Mostly retired, he's now a special correspondent for KPR and the Kansas News Service.