U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

November 11, 2023

Frontlines of Democracy

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

On this Veterans Day, I want to express my profound admiration for the unwavering service and sacrifices of our veterans. Their commitment to our nation, its people and the values we hold dear transcends generations.

Our veterans understand better than most that democracy requires constant vigilance, and it currently is facing tough challenges at home and abroad – tougher than in recent years. Despots, authoritarians and terrorist groups worldwide would like nothing more than to see us retreat from defending freedom. In the face of adversity, though, the United States stands resilient thanks to the courageous men and women who have worn the uniform.

Maryland alone is home to almost 400,000 veterans, over 60,000 active and reserve service members across 13 military bases representing every branch of the military. We have the largest and most renowned military medical facilities in the country at Walter Reed in Bethesda, and the nation’s Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Maryland’s veterans are among the best our country has produced and our state has helped create the strongest military in the world. This steadfast protection, whether by land, air, sea or space – and cyberspace – spursconfidence in democracy’s viability both at home and abroad.

At this moment, we are seeing democracy attacked and tested around the globe. Ukraine, especially, is on the frontlines in defense of democracy and it needs America’s ongoing support.

The parallels between Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine and Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland in World War II are obvious. Putin has undertaken a modern effort to destabilize democratic nations and expand Russia’s territory across Europe. If he succeeds, he will erase the nation of Ukraine. He will not stop with Ukraine and he will carry on with the belief that he can invade his neighbors whenever he wants to. If Putin succeeds, our allies in Europe, in the Middle East, in Africa and Asia – and indeed we in the United States — will be in greater danger.  It is up to the United States and our allies across the world to stop Putin. We must show leadership.

Let me be clear: no one is considering sending the American military to fight in Ukraine. President Biden and Congress are doing everything we can to avoid turning this conflict into World War III. Essential support is in the form of supplies, training and resources so the Ukrainians can push back against Russia through stronger air defenses, drones and arms for the brave Ukrainians on the front lines.

Helping Ukraine fight Russia is unmistakably in America’s national security interest. In addition to sending a message to the world that an unprovoked attack on your neighbor is unacceptable and will not stand, helping Ukraine shows our global partners that the United States of America is reliable and willing to fulfill our commitments when times get tough.

We are on the side of democracy, which is the right side of history.

Unfortunately, isolationism and war fatigue are starting to show in some partisan corners. The House of Representatives and its new Speaker have stalled crucial aid to Ukraine at a pivotal time in its counteroffensive. Astonishing to me, a Reuters survey reported that congressional support to provide weapons to Ukraine has dropped by nearly 25 percent since June.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has the singular objective to push Russia out of his country, noted: “Exhaustion with the war rolls along like a wave. You see it in the United States, in Europe.”

We cannot walk away and allow Russia to overtake its neighbor. Supplemental funding for Ukraine is not charity – this is the frontline of the global fight for democracy. By degrading Russia’s military capabilities, we also are degrading the capabilities of those who Russia works with like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Two of the most dangerous and brutal dictatorships in the world—Iran and North Korea—have joined forces with Putin to support Russia’s war effort. Iran, by building factories in Russia to pump out new drones, and North Korea, by sending munitions to help Putin rearm his forces. We need a supplemental funding package that counters all these threats. This is funding that will help Ukraine and strengthen our own national security.

Washington Post columnist Max Boot recently noted that while we are risking less than 1% of our budget, “the Ukrainians are risking their lives.” They are risking their lives to defend the liberty and sovereignty of their nation, in the face of brutal, unprovoked Russian aggression. They are risking their lives for the right to choose their own destiny through democratically elected institutions. We must not falter in this fight.

America’s veterans know too well the cost of war and understand what is happening in Ukraine. As we take time this Veterans Day weekend to honor those who served in our military, let us do all we can to protect and uphold the values and ideals they fought to defend. We cannot allow their service and sacrifice to be wasted. We cannot allow democracy to be overrun by tyrants.

On this Veterans Day – and every day of the year – I urge you to join me in putting our thoughts and prayers into action and show our veterans how much we truly appreciate their service. To all of the veterans reading this email, thank you for your service to our nation, and thank you to your families who supported you along the way.    

Thank you for your time and attention this weekend. As always, please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts and concerns on this topic or any other.


Ben Cardin