At Quincy Institute Confab, Lawmakers Call To Halt Arms Sales to Ukraine, Condition US Aid

Isolationist think tank conference focused on pulling back America’s footprint across the globe

Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (YouTube)
May 23, 2024

American military support for Ukraine is a waste of money. Israel is better off without U.S. arms and financial aid. Detangling China from America’s economy will lead to disaster.

These were some of the foreign policy conclusions reached by lawmakers, experts, and political leaders during a day-long conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday organized by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, an isolationist think tank bankrolled by billionaires George Soros and Charles Koch.

During the confab, which primarily focused on pulling back America’s footprint across the globe, speakers like Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), Sen. J.D. Vance (R., Ohio), and former GOP presidential contender Vivek Ramaswamy made the case for cutting off U.S. arms sales to Ukraine. Paul called to roll back sanctions on malign nations like Russia and China and sever the historically close U.S. military alliance with Israel by conditioning aid.

"Should aid be conditional? Of course it should be," Paul, a critic of all U.S. foreign aid, said during his afternoon address. "All aid should be conditional. Should there be a bare minimum standard? Absolutely there should be a bare minimum standard."

Vance, a Senate Republican who has led efforts to end American military support for Ukraine, said the United States is wasting billions of dollars on a lost cause that will not ultimately bolster the country’s own national security. With the United States in trillions of dollars in debt, "we have to pick and choose" which allies to support and whom to fund.

"I certainly admire the Ukrainians for fighting against Russia. But I do not think it is America’s interest to continue to fund an effectively never ending war in Ukraine," Vance said.

The senator also made that case that the Biden administration’s decision in January 2023 to divert U.S. weapons stockpiles from Israel to Ukraine ultimately "prolonged the war in Gaza."

The Biden administration, he said, forced "the Israelis to empty their munitions stockpile and send it all to Ukraine. That actually, you can make a pretty good argument, prolonged the war in Gaza in service of prolonging the war in Ukraine."

America, he added, "cannot manufacture enough weapons to support four different wars in four different corners of the world. We just can’t do it."

Similarly, Ramaswamy said that arms expenditures in Ukraine are undercutting the United States' own military operations and prolonging a war that is pushing Russia further into an alliance with China.

"Right now we are forking over the next 100 billion dollars to Ukraine without an iota of explanation of what the next hundred billions dollars is going to achieve that the first hundred billions dollars didn’t," the former GOP presidential contender said. "I think that’s a mistake."

Ramaswamy also maintained that the United States' military aid to Israel is preventing the Jewish state from finishing its goal of eradicating Hamas.

"We have fallen into a trap that actually leaves both the United States and Israel worse off as a consequence of the United States financially intervening in this particular war," he said. "The thing Israel is short on is diplomatic latitude to be able to defend itself."

"Both the United States and Israel would be better off if the United States stood diplomatically for the right of Israel to defend itself," Ramaswamy said. "Israel has a right to defend itself, but we constrain our ability to provide that diplomatic ‘Iron Dome’ when we assume responsibility for those consequences [of the war] through financially intervening in that war."

Sen. Paul, during his remarks, said that U.S. sanctions on countries like Russia, China, and Iran are effectively useless and should be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with each of the nations.

"Many Republicans were for the maximum pressure of the previous administration. But the facts dictate otherwise," Paul said. "There’s no real objective evidence that putting more sanctions on them helped. In fact, I would argue that sanctions don’t work at all. The only sanctions that work are if you offer to repeal them."

Paul went on to elaborate on what he called a "quid pro quo" foreign policy.

"There is another alternative and it’s called diplomacy. Another word is quid pro quo, but you’re not supposed to have quid pro quo anymore," Paul said. "But that’s what diplomacy is about. If someone doesn’t like you, and you don’t like them, you won’t do it because you dislike me and we have an adversarial relationship. I have to give you something, and you give me something. It is a trade."

Many of the speakers also offered harsh views of what they called the mainstream Republican Party’s obsession with "neoconservative" foreign policies. This worldview is underpinned by robust U.S. support for Israel and a belief that America should robustly support democracies across the globe.

Ramaswamy said that, while on the campaign trail, he learned that many of those who espouse a "neoconservative worldview are not actually all that well educated in why they hold the views that they do." These policy positions, he said, are "funded by people who write checks."

During a panel discussion on U.S. policy towards China, Quincy Institute scholar Jake Werner warned that U.S. efforts to untangle its economy from Beijing are pushing both countries closer to war.

"The vast majority of these things are exclusion, they’re actually cutting off competition, whether that’s preventing Chinese business from buying advance semiconductors, cutting Chinese business out of the American market, making it illegal for Chinese citizens to purchase land in the U.S., blocking the Chinese construction of undersea cables," he said. "When you pursue exclusion around core vital interests, that is incredibly provocative, violently provocative."

Update 7:40 a.m.: This piece has been updated to clarify remarks from Sen. J.D. Vance.