This goal may seem ambitious. In fact, many of the United States’ closest allies have taken on a greater load of refugees since the war began in February, either in absolute numbers or, in even more cases, on a per capita basis. . Britain, Canada, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands have all hosted large populations of Ukrainian migrants. Even the smallest members of NATO – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, each with less than 3 million inhabitants – have accepted tens of thousands.
The influx of Ukrainians seeking refuge is a calamity inflicted on the world by Mr. Putin. He does not see them as suffering individuals but as a lever to force the West to cry uncle and to urge Ukraine to demand peace. For the Kremlin strongman, the refugees are one with the flow of Russian gas and oil, which he seems likely to impede as a means of breaking Europe’s unity and resolve. Democracies, he thinks, are inherently weak.
This is why Mr. Biden’s leadership on Ukrainian migrants is essential. Continuing to admit Ukrainian refugees is important not only to reaffirm the historic role of the United States as a beacon for the world’s most desperate people. It also offers another way, besides military and economic assistance, to show Mr. Putin that democracies can deal with authoritarian brutality.
The challenge of sustaining this commitment should not be underestimated. By early July, the United Nations estimated that more than 5.6 million Ukrainian refugees had been registered across Europe. Millions more are displaced inside Ukraine, a devastating toll. Depending on the course of the war – unpredictable but still likely to last several more months, at a minimum – the exodus of migrants may continue or accelerate. As Ukrainian towns are captured or rendered uninhabitable by Russian attacks, more migrants could seek refuge further afield, in Britain, Canada and the United States.
As in that country, Canada and Britain have established sponsorship programs, among other methods of entry, under which Ukrainians are resettled in hostels. Under the US version of this agreement, called Uniting for Ukraine, around 30,000 migrants were resettled and around 30,000 more were allowed to travel. Applications from potential sponsors continue to come in at a brisk pace; many are Ukrainian Americans around New York and Chicago. In Britain and Canada too, tens of thousands more migrants are expected in the coming months.
The resolve of the United States must continue unabated, and it must also expand to include refugees who have no sponsors. How the Biden administration responds to this test will be an ongoing barometer of its commitment to American values and traditions.