Responding to Russia’s warnings about escalating violence in Ukraine, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) declared on May 1 his intention to introduce an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to Defend America’s Allies Resolution. Its purpose is to put Russia on notice about the Kremlin’s recent threats to use nuclear weapons. To give his announcement more gravitas, Kinzinger proclaimed his intention on Face the Nation, making the point that there needed to be a “clear red line” that, if crossed, would guarantee a military response from the United States. The use of the term “red line” by Kinzinger was curious, in light of what little significance that meant in the Obama-Biden White House.
“I don’t think we need to be using force in Ukraine right now. I just introduced an AUMF, an authorization for the use of military force, giving the president basically congressional leverage for permission to use it if nuclear, biological, or chemical [weapons of mass destruction] are used in Ukraine,” Kinzinger said. The congressman just wants it handy, it seems, if President Biden needs the “leverage” to dissuade Vladimir Putin from using WMD, specifically tactical nuclear weapons. Kinzinger emphasized he does not believe introducing the AUMF now is “too soon.”
Despite the disturbing rhetoric coming from Moscow, some believe it is too early for congressional action to permit the US president to deploy the military inside Ukraine or against Russia – including members of President Joe Biden’s party. According to Joseph Clark in The Washington Times, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) said the resolution was “premature.”
Giving the president the authority to protect Americans at home and US armed forces overseas is critical to ensure national security. Historically, as explained in a 2014 American Progress article, Congress passing authorizations for the use of military force has happened 35 times since the United States became a nation. Most notable were the War of 1812, World Wars I and II, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the response to 9/11 Islamic jihadist attacks on the United States. Exceptions to such a war powers resolution were Korea, where President Harry Truman defined US intervention as a “police action,” not a war, and Vietnam, where President Lyndon Johnson used the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to increase the number of US service members in South Vietnam. Believing it had surrendered some of its constitutional powers, Congress passed the 1973 War Powers Resolution to regain Title I of the Constitution’s authority to declare war and raise a military.
Americans might wonder: Is such a use of force authorization necessary at this point in Russia’s war on Ukraine? Regardless of Kinzinger’s view on how imminent the need is, the resolution and its announcement might lead to the conclusion the congressman is doing a little grandstanding. Under current law, the Biden administration has two days to deploy forces should anything untoward happen in Ukraine prompting a US military response, before notifying Congress, and an additional 60 days to get congressional approval with a provision for 30 more days if requested by the president. This interval gives any US president two to three months to use US armed forces appropriately against a hostile force in defense of US national interests. Russia would fit the definition should it employ any form of WMD, certainly nuclear weapons.
Giving Russia a “clear red line” may make good headlines. Still, the Biden administration has been more inclined to use American tax dollars to build Kyiv’s military capability. Additionally, should the unthinkable happen, and Putin makes good on his nuclear threat, whether or not an AUMF has been passed will be moot. At the moment, giving Ukraine the capability to beat back the invaders is what the White House has decided to do.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.