How does Joe Manchin feel about Ukraine these days? I found myself wondering, since some lawmakers have begun to criticize U.S. spending on the conflict, and the senator from West Virginia is famously hawkish about debt and inflation. But Manchin tells me he adamantly supports American involvement, no matter the cost. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Steve Clemons: What do you think about the Ukraine War at this point?
Sen. Joe Manchin: The Ukraine conflict is the most just war of my lifetime. Basically starting with the Vietnam War, and also including the wars that we declared in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the Ukraine war is the most just war that I've ever seen or felt. Truly, this war is righteous. This is the one war that I think we cannot be hesitant about getting involved in and we cannot get wishy-washy about spending the resources needed to win.
Steve Clemons: What does “just war” mean in this case?
Sen. Manchin: Just war means that you have a country that was attacked, unprovoked, by a communist country that’s on the fringe of being a fascist country. We're supporting their fight because we have to be defenders of democracy and freedom.
Steve Clemons: Do you think Russia is still communist?
Sen. Manchin: I sure do. So they might be intertwined a little bit with capitalism, but very little. Maybe Putin is turning Russia into a fascist country. Their economy only benefits a few.
But listen, I’ve seen some people basically questioning whether we should be supporting Ukraine. But I have never seen in conflicts more than this one the definition of a just war — and this so far without really risking and shedding American blood. If we can all just gather a bit of fortitude to signal to everyone that we're in this to win it — and the only way you're going to have peace in Ukraine is through strength — peace will come through strength.
Steve Clemons: Do you think Biden is going too slow?
Sen. Manchin: I really think there's solid evaluation going on. It's been quite accurate. Once I got briefed by those who have more knowledge than I do, with military background, what we are doing and the pace made sense as we are evaluating very carefully what’s needed and making sure the Ukrainians have the necessary equipment.
Steve Clemons: Do West Virginians who are scrambling to pay the bills and dealing with high inflation see Ukraine as a conflict that matters to them?
Sen. Manchin: I’ve not had that conversation with folks where people are calling in saying, why are we spending money? Why are we supporting Ukraine? Why are we basically involved?
And I hope Americans don't ever get to the point where they question and walk away and not give Ukrainians the support this moment calls for. I'm committed to the end.