Alaska Beacon: After visit to Ukraine, Murkowski says she is confident that Russia will lose war

Alaska’s senior U.S. senator, armed with souvenir stickers from Anchorage, visited a group backed by Alaskans

After a four-day trip to Ukraine and Eastern Europe last week that included a visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she is confident that Ukraine will win its 13-month-old war against Russia.


“I think that Ukraine will win because Ukraine must win. I am very concerned that if Putin finds success in Ukraine, he will not stop at Ukraine,” she said, reiterating that the United States should continue aiding Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion.


Last week, the Alaska Republican and two other U.S. senators flew to Poland and took a 12-hour overnight train trip to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.


Murkowski is a member of the Senate subcommittee in charge of defense spending, and the United States has spent billions on military aid to Ukraine, part of almost $77 billion in Ukrainian aid authorized by Congress between January 2022 and January 2023.


“I believe so strongly that, that at the end, democracy must prevail. And this is why the United States’ role in this fight is so key,” she said.


Officially, Murkowski’s trip was one of oversight — determining whether Ukraine is spending that aid appropriately — but she also visited the nation’s state-owned electric company and a group of Ukrainians who have received aid directly from Alaskans.


She said she was most surprised by the way Ukranians are continuing to live their lives despite the threat of Russian air raids and missile attacks.


“There was a sense of normalcy as people went about their business. Whether it was kids in schools or their parents — or families — going shopping or or going to work,” she said.


Her impression was reinforced by a trip to Ukrenergo, the national electric operator. After meeting with the company’s officials, the American delegation was asked if they’d like to see where Ukrenergo was bombed.


They turned a corner, Murkowski said, and were greeted by the site of an office block whose top floor had been blown out. Surrounding windows were shattered and covered by tarps blowing in the wind.


“They’re all going to work, they’re doing their jobs, and cleaning things up around them,” Murkowski said.


Zelenskyy himself left the same impression during a brief visit, she said, referring to him as “an amazing individual.”


She said she was left with the sense that he has a “determined commitment that Ukraine will prevail,” and while “optimism” might not be the right word, she said, “He is very, very clear eyed. But he is absolutely determined. The people of Ukraine are as united as any people I’ve ever seen.”


Mark Hayward, a retired Green Beret, lives in Western Alaska and traveled last year to Eastern Europe. With money donated by the Nome chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he and other members of the chapter bought an ambulance from a Polish junkyard, repainted it, and that vehicle has been in service for the months since, working on a variety of humanitarian and wartime missions.


“It has taken recently separated Special Forces operators, volunteers, medics, refugees, soldiers, over 10 tons of relief supplies, specialty military and medical equipment, from one end of Ukraine to the other, from the north to the south of Ukraine and all up and down the front line to give the Ukrainians the tools they need,” he said.


During her stay in Kyiv, Murkowski visited the BLAMbulance, as it has become known, and talked with its crew.


From her bag, she pulled a VFW flag donated by the Nome chapter and a variety of Alaska souvenirs.


Hayward had told her that they put up various stickers in their vehicle, so she brought some to add — one from Alyeska ski resort, a few from various Anchorage breweries, and the rest a “literal grab bag,” she said.


But does Murkowski’s visit really help matters?


“Absolutely,” Hayward said.


“When three major U.S. senators go someplace, that’s not just a photo op. That’s a significant action. And it reminds people that this stuff matters,” he said.


That’s 3% of the Senate, he noted.


“Individually, none of us can accomplish anything. But if we’re working together on this, we can move the needle, we can do things and accomplish things,” he said.


Murkowski said she’s particularly grateful for the Alaskans who have welcomed Ukrainian refugees into their homes. Almost 1,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the state, she said, and when she returns to Anchorage on Friday, she intends to meet with some of them.


Hayward said that in his experience, there are three things Alaskans can do to help Ukraine:


• Keep paying attention. “The first thing is, they can continue to make this a priority. They can continue to pay attention to what’s going on. And I think that that matters more than anything else,” he said.


• Ask political leaders to support Ukraine. “The second thing is they can insist that their national representatives — and that means candidates as well as elected officials — take this seriously,” he said. “If it is a candidate, you let them know in no uncertain terms that if they somehow want to portray this as a territorial dispute, or do a bunch of ‘what about-isms’, they’re going to need to move on because they can’t represent you effectively.”


• Donate to proven causes. “You can talk to other people who’ve been there. You can go with names that you know, or in the age of the internet, you can dive into the things that you care about and find a way to connect to people who are doing that thing,” he said.


On Wednesday, Hayward spoke by phone from St. Lawrence Island, 40 miles from the Russian mainland.


He said Alaskans need to act now: If Ukraine loses the war, Russia will begin acting more aggressively with its other neighbors, including Alaska. It’s better to support Ukraine now, to prevent that from happening, he said.


“We can either deal with this problem now, get lifelong friends with the Ukrainians, and make the world better for our kids, or we can turn our backs on it and get bitten on the ass probably literally in five or six years,” he said.

By:  James Brooks
Source: Alaska Beacon