The ethics of Biden’s ‘America First’ argument for Ukraine funding

Should aid be seen as a two-fer — helping the recipient while funding made in America weapons that support US jobs?

Rashmee Roshan Lall
3 min readNov 2, 2023
The colours of Ukraine. Photo by Marjan Blan @marjanblan on Unsplash

Semafor, the year-old news website founded by a former New York Times media columnist and the former Bloomberg CEO, has a short sharp column in its daily offering. It’s called ‘Blindspot’ and offers the following explanation of what readers can expect: “Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.” The column proceeds to break itself down into two key sentences: “What the Left isn’t reading” and “What the Right isn’t reading”.

I’ve always thought this was a clever way to highlight a very human tendency — ie to cushion oneself from reality and privilege the political side on which you stand.

So to the Biden administration’s determination to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s unprovoked, brutal, 20-month-old invasion. Joe Biden is right to support the fight but the way he’s been trying to sell the idea of continuing military aid to the recalcitrant US Congress has been called out by some Republicans.

Mr Biden has suggested that Ukraine aid is a two-fer — it helps Ukraine, yes, but more to the point, it funds weapons that are made in America and support US jobs. The president included this line of argument in his Oval Office address last month. At the time, Politico said the argument gave the speech an “ America First twist.”

Mr Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has also made a similar case for billions in requested Ukraine funding. He recently told the Senate Appropriations Committee: “This money is going right back into the coffers of America”, by boosting US stocks. Previous funding for Ukraine assistance, he added, had been good news for more than 30 US states.

That’s politically savvy, I guess, but kinda distasteful too. And at least two Republican senators — both aren’t people I support, normally — have argued against this line of thinking.

Rand Paul told Semafor: “I think it’s a digusting and reprehensible argument to say that we would participate in wars and that wars are a good thing because they help our armaments manufacturers. I mean, that’s sort of an argument for, wow, we just kind of hope a bigger war erupts in Africa so we can sell more arms.”

And Josh Hawley also spoke out against the Biden administration’s jobs pitch for Ukraine funding. “You could make that kind of argument about almost any kind of military spending. They don’t want to argue now about the merits of Ukraine, now we’re trying to shift it to something else.”

It’s hard to disagree that Ukraine should be supported just because it’s the right thing to do, not because it allows American factories to keep whirring. Let’s continue to make the moral case, not a monetary one.

Originally published at



Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London