As the Russian military continues to commit genocide and mass murder against the innocent people of Ukraine, there is one thing they have learned they can count on, and that is the compassion and support of their freedom-loving friends in the United States of America.
To date, the U.S. has spent $44.7 billion on aid for Ukraine in its struggle to preserve its independence from invading Russian forces — the successor state of what President Ronald Reagan once called “the evil empire.”
America’s contribution is now more than three times what has been contributed in total by seven other leading NATO countries combined. This fact may frustrate some who believe that spending tens of billions of dollars to save a foreign country is inconsistent with America First policies, but they could not be more wrong.
America First was never meant to mean America Alone, and it is in our interests to help other countries with similar democratic-republican values. History has demonstrated time and time again that friendships and alliances are borne out over time, and one such example is the story of the American Revolutionary War.
For those who doubt America’s place in history as a liberating force, they should reflect upon the birth of the United States and the fact that our own independence was achieved with the help of other countries who similarly came to our aid.
Support for the struggling United States began before it was even born. Our friends in France began sending aid as early as 1775. The French government secretly shipped weapons to the 13 colonies while Gen. George Washington was still assembling the Continental Army, and a year before Congress ratified Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Once the Second Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain, the world was in awe. No one, especially British Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis believed the so-called USA could survive a War of Independence against the greatest power to ever stride the face of the Earth.
But in 1776, shortly after the U.S. declared its independence, Benjamin Franklin traveled to Paris to gain support for America’s unprecedented stand against the British. The French, who were already endowed with a deep admiration for republicanism were inspired by the American Revolution, and they sent millions in aid and weapons.
Moved by America’s bravery, Pierre Charles L’Enfant joined the Continental Army in 1777 along with a prominent young aristocrat named Lafayette who served as an aide to Washington. The two French officers helped lead many Continental troops to victory, but more importantly, their presence fighting alongside Washington provided legitimacy of the American cause to the European community.
In 1778, the French entered into the Treaty of Alliance with the Continental Army, and soon Spain and the Dutch Republic began sending aid as well. In 1779, Spain openly declared war with England and in 1780 the Dutch Republic also engaged in war with Great Britain.
That same year France became more openly involved in the war by sending several thousand troops. Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau landed at Newport, Rhode Island where he established a naval base. In May 1781, Washington met Rochambeau in Connecticut to strategize.
Two months later Francois Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse who commanded France’s West Indies Fleet received his orders from Washington to go to Chesapeake. When he arrived in August, his troops helped Lafayette’s army and the Continentals block British forces. The British sent naval forces to stop the French-American alliance, but they were defeated.
On Sept. 28, Washington, Rochambeau and Lafayette joined to fight side by side in what became known as the historic Siege of Yorktown, the final battle of the American Revolutionary War that would change history forever.
The war ended Oct. 19 when Cornwallis’ surrendered, leading the British Crown to finally negotiate an end to the conflict, and a new era emerged raising hope that the struggle for independence — even against the most powerful empire — was possible.
One hundred sixty-three years later when the French Resistance was struggling to liberate Vichy France from the occupation of Nazi Germany, it was the United States that came to its rescue, returning a long-owed favor to an old friend. But without France’s help during the Revolutionary War, there never would have been an America to save the French Third Republic in 1944.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people have demonstrated the kind of moral courage rarely written into the pages of history. It is the same republican spirit we saw in the heroes who made the United States possible — both American and French alike. Ukraine is an ally America wants by her side.
It is America’s destiny to lead the free world, and leadership means support — morally, economically and militarily. The isolationists are wrong. We should never turn away from a country that has the courage to stand up for its own freedom as our heroic forefathers did in 1776. It is who we are. It is engrained into America’s historical DNA.
Let’s celebrate Independence Day with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters this Fourth of July — and look forward to the day when we can all celebrate a free Ukraine together.
• Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a former Washington prosecutor who also served as a U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate, and a senior U.S. official from 2017-2021. He now serves on the editorial board for The Washington Times.