Jason Crow, the Democrat who represents Colorado's 6th Congressional District, said Ukraine is the winning the war against Russia and earlier on the same day told fellow members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly that America's commitment to NATO is as strong as ever.
In an interview with Colorado Politics on Dec. 7, following a meeting that morning with members of the parliamentary assembly in Washington, the 43-year-old attorney and decorated Army Ranger combat veteran said Ukraine's army is doing a "phenomenal job," more closely resembling the fighting forces of a NATO country than it does the army of a former member state of the Soviet Union.
Crow, who serves on the House armed services and intelligence committees, added that he would like to see Ukraine eventually joining NATO, though he stressed that can't happen until after the war with Russia has concluded because of the alliance's mutual defense policy.
"They have literally transformed their military over the last nine months while fighting," Crow said. "And they've done a remarkable job of it."
Crow, who easily won reelection last month to a third term in Congress, was appointed in October by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the transnational parliamentary body, which counts 269 lawmakers from the Atlantic alliance's 30 member states, including 36 who represent the United States.
Created in 1955, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is separate from NATO but operates as a link between the military alliance and its member nations to foster dialogue between legislators on defense and diplomacy.
Crow said he had "a good chat" about the future of NATO and next steps involving Ukraine with the roughly 150 NATO parliamentarians who gathered this week in Washington for meetings and briefings.
"My message is that the United States is engaged, and we're ready to build out the partnership," Crow said. "That it's never been stronger than it is right now, and that the alliance matters a lot, and they can count on the U.S., and they can count on the United States Congress to make sure that we're standing by our partners and our allies, that we're funding Ukraine and giving them the support and leading the alliance, and that they can count on our partnership."
At its annual plenary session last month in Madrid, the parliamentary assembly unanimously adopted a resolution advising its member countries to tighten sanctions on Russia and condemn the country as a "terrorist" regime. The assembly also called on NATO members to establish an international tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders for war crimes.
The assembled legislators agreed that NATO countries need to increase military, financial and humanitarian support for Ukraine "for as long s it takes for Ukraine to prevail."
Crow said he's confident Ukraine will repel the invasion once President Vladimir Putin faces up to how badly things are going for Russia.
"The Ukrainians have been winning this war for quite some time, actually," Crow said. "The initial invasion in February and early March certainly set the Ukrainians back on their heels, but they quickly recovered from that shock, reconstituted their forces. It's really remarkable to see what's happening, that they are building out a larger military, they're modernizing their force. Their army, it looks more like a NATO army and force right now than a former Soviet Union force and the force that it looked like in February."
Crow has visited Ukraine twice in the last year — last December, before the war broke out, when he led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to assure Ukraine that the U.S. supports its sovereignty, territorial integrity and tilt toward the West, and again in April, when Pelosi led a high-level delegation that met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to discuss how the U.S. could provide weapons and training to its ally.
"Their courage, their bravery, their prowess on the battlefield is, frankly, just unbelievable," Crow told Colorado Politics this week. "They know how to fight, but what's more is you realize the importance of the will to fight, and the difference between an army on paper vs. an army in reality. Because on paper, the Russians should have won this war, and they should have won it a long time ago. But paper armies don't fight; real ones do. And Ukrainians are fighting for their families, for their neighborhoods, for their country, for their homeland, and it shows. And the Russians don't know what they're fighting for. In fact, many of them don't even want to be there."
A couple weeks before his most recent trip to Ukraine in April, Crow joined fellow members of the House intelligence committee on a visit to Eastern Europe, including a stop in Poland, where he spoke with members of the storied 82nd Airborne Division — the unit he belonged to when he began his military service during the Iraq War.
"This was right before we were getting ready to provide the HIMARS systems," he recalled, describing a type of mobile rocket launchers that Crow helped persuade the Biden administration to supply to Ukraine's military. "And I was talking to the 82nd Airborne Division artillery commanders, many of whom ended up doing the training of the Ukrainians on these systems. And I asked them, how fast can we train the Ukrainians on these systems? And they said, 'Well, it takes about eight weeks to train a U.S. soldier and artillery men on these systems.' They said, 'If we really compress it, if we condense it down and Ukrainians are really quick studies, we think we can do it in four weeks' — half the time. Well, it turns out they can do it in 14 days."
It turns out, Crow said, that the Ukrainians learned how to operate the weapon system faster than anybody thought was possible.
"And when they went to the battlefield and employed these systems, they exceed our own U.S. standards. Their targeting, their employment of these systems is setting new standards militarily, by any standard, U.S. or NATO, that people didn't think was possible" he said. "So they are exceptional soldiers, learning quickly — quick studies. And that's just one of many examples of how they have adapted and improvised and they have been able to do remarkable things on the battlefield."
Added Crow: "Vladimir Putin does not have the same army today that he had in February. A very large percentage of his fighting forces has been completely destroyed or rendered combat ineffective, and it's getting worse and worse for him. His problems are compounding. In fact, I think if he knew the reality of the situation and the state of his military, he would probably be more willing to come to the bargaining table and negotiate a resolution. But I don't think he fully understands as a state of his army, because I don't think people are willing to give him that information."
Crow said it's. up to Ukraine to decide the terms of any negotiation to end the conflict.
"People always talk to the U.S. and say, what does the U.S. want? What do we see in a negotiation?" he said. "And the difference between NATO and our partners and allies, is that we don't compel sovereign independent partners and allies to do what we want them to do. We have stated preferences and we have recommendations, but Ukraine is a sovereign and independent country.... That's their decision, and what they're willing to live with. But that's the difference between Russia and China and other autocratic countries, and the United States and the free world, is that we respect each other's sovereignty and freedom and their autonomy to make that decision."
Crow said the U.S. agrees with Ukraine's desire to reclaim territory Russia has seized.
"The Ukrainians will have to decide when and if they get to that point, and if Russia is willing to come to the table in good faith — which they have not shown an inclination to do yet — then the Ukrainians will have to decide on what terms they want to enter into a negotiation and resolve this," he said. "Like every war, it will be solved at the negotiating table, ultimately."