‘Ukraine Never Asked for Blank Checks,’ says Ambassador Oksana Markarova

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“Support for Ukraine is very bipartisan from the people of this country,” Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova told Robert Siegel Sunday night in response to questions about American aid to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself against Russian aggression. 

“We are fighting for the same values and principles on which this country was built: freedom, democracy, sovereignty. The ability of people to live like they want to live. To choose their own government and to change their government.” She painted a stark contrast to the autocratic regime of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, citing the attacks “war criminal Putin” has waged over the years, including against Georgia, Moldova and Chechnya.  

Going into the midterms, Republican Kevin McCarthy, now poised to be Speaker of the House, warned that if Republicans took the majority there would be no “blank check” to help support Ukraine in the war. Asked about the reportedly steep decline in Republican support in aiding Ukraine, Markarova  was emphatic that American support would continue because of what’s at stake. “If we don’t stop [Putin] in Ukraine,” she stressed, “we will have to stop him elsewhere,” adding, in a clear response to McCarthy, “Ukraine never asked for blank checks. We always tell why and what we need.” 

Ambassador Markarova warned that if Putin were to triumph, other autocratic leaders would be emboldened to expand their borders. She added that supporting Ukraine now is important because if Ukraine loses, Putin will encroach on the territory of a NATO country, which would draw Europe and the United States into the war, costing American taxpayers far more and requiring boots on the ground.

Moment Special Literary Contributor Robert Siegel, former senior host of NPR’s All Things Considered, interviewed Markarova as part of Moment’s 2022 Gala and Awards ceremony, held virtually with a VIP reception at the German Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC, on Sunday evening. Marakova was the recipient of the magazine’s 2022 Women in Power Awar

She spoke of the challenges facing women who serve as ambassadors, and the need for more women in diplomacy. Markarova wasn’t trained as a diplomat—she worked in finance in the private sector and then as a finance minister before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked her to serve as ambassador to the United States. 

“Being a diplomat is hard, regardless of gender,” Markarova said. “But it’s especially important for women to have the support of their spouse and everyone in the household.” 

She says she has been encouraged by how many more women there are in ambassador positions. “Women are good negotiators. They want to seek solutions without force.” And yet, her country has been forced to defend itself. Markarova says it has been an honor to serve Ukraine as ambassador during this time of war “when so many lives depend on you.” 

“Democracy is not only delivering better to the people. That we know,” Markarova concluded. “We must also show that democracies can defend themselves against autocrats like Putin.”

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