Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, center, and Sen. Angus King of Maine. Photo courtesy of Sen. King’s office

Sen. Angus King on Monday defended the ongoing military support the United States and its allies are providing to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion, comparing the war to Hitler’s early military aggressions that sparked World War II.

“We just have to continue to remind people how important it is and that this is not some faraway conflict that doesn’t involve us,” King said. “That’s the same attitude that was in this country in the late 1930s. And because of the lack of response to Hitler in the West between 1936 and 1939, we ended up with World War II and 55 million people killed.”

King made the comments during a virtual news conference after returning from a trip to Ukraine over the weekend. King and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his senior military commanders on Friday.

Russia had predicted an easy victory when it invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, but faced intense and effective resistance from Ukrainians and broad international opposition from western allies. Since the war began, the U.S. has sent nearly $25 billion in to aid Ukraine. An additional $3 billion in aid, including a Patriot air defense battery and Bradley armored vehicles, was announced on Friday.

King’s remarks come as Republicans take control of the U.S. House, promising no blank checks for the ongoing war and greater oversight of the aid being provided.

King, an independent who serves on the Senate’s Armed Services and Intelligence committees and caucuses with Democrats, said the Russian invasion is faltering, and Putin’s only hope is to divide the American public and Ukraine’s allies.


“He can’t win, so right now his strategy is to divide us,” King said. “I have no doubt that there are Russian disinformation campaigns right now that are at play here in the United States and across the West that are trying to undermine that support.”

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation have repeatedly stated their support for helping Ukraine. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, traveled to Ukraine in May and met with Zelensky as part of a Republican delegation that sought to assure Ukrainians of continued to U.S. support.

“We wanted to assure the president and the people of Ukraine that support for them transcends political parties,” Collins said at the time.

On Monday, King said that he is confident that the Ukrainians are using the international military aid as intended. He said he was briefed in “excruciating detail” on the country’s system of tracking and inventorying the aid it has received.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Bridget Brink, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, listen to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and top military commanders on Friday. Photo courtesy of Sen. King’s office

King said he personally warned Zelensky that any scandals involving U.S. military aid could jeopardize any future assistance.

“He understood that,” King said of Zelensky. He said the Pentagon’s inspector general also is planning to go to Ukraine in the coming weeks to conduct an inventory. “We’re driving accountability as well.”


King said the U.S. is being careful not to provide weapons that could lead to an escalation of the war, such as long-range missiles that could reach Russia. Instead, the Biden administration is providing only the weapons that Ukrainians need to defend their country, such as missile defense systems and armored vehicles, he said.

In the lead-up to the November elections, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who was elected House speaker on Friday, vowed that Republicans would not provide a “blank check” for military assistance. McCarthy has since walked back those comments, calling for more oversight of the funding.

But McCarthy’s bruising, dayslong battle to become speaker last week cast doubts on House Republicans’ commitment to helping Ukraine.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, who helped lead a group of 20 House Republicans blocking McCarthy’s ascent to the speaker’s chair, celebrated the fact that their opposition prevented the House from conducting any business, tweeting: “Today the House didn’t organize. Biggest Loser: Zelensky. Biggest winner: US Taxpayers.”

On Monday, King repeatedly compared Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to Hitler’s early incursion into Rhineland, a demilitarized zone separating Germany and France. The lack of a response from France and Britain emboldened Hitler to continue his military advances, including the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, which eventually led to World War II.

“This is a place where we can stop this,” he said.


Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, speaks to the media during a trip to Ukraine. With King are Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and an unnamed interpreter. Photo courtesy of Sen. King’s office

King said Putin is systematically attacking Ukraine’s electrical grid by bombing substations and transformers in hopes of breaking the will of the Ukrainian people. But it’s not working, he said, and Ukrainians are being “very creative” in restoring power.

“The indiscriminate bombing of civilians is the modus operandi about Vladimir Putin,” King said, pointing to Chechnya and Syria. “That’s really what they’re doing now to try to break the spirit of the Ukrainians.”

“Now, what I learned and observed is that this campaign is having the opposite effect,” he continued. “It has strengthened the resolve of the Ukrainians, it’s angering them and, as one of them told me, the people of Ukraine will hate and resist Russia for generations, because of this.”

King said America has an interest in stopping Russia’s advance before it grows into a more global conflict. He said the U.S. must defend its values against authoritarianism.

“Hopefully, we will continue to recognize that this is really a fight for Western values,” he said. “It’s a fight for democracy. It’s a fight for freedom. It’s a fight against authoritarianism and dictatorship. And that’s why it’s so important, and it’s important to us.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.