Though there’s a sentiment among some Republicans that the U.S. should scale back or stop its support for Ukraine, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said on Tuesday that would be a mistake. 

Cox’s comments came shortly after the National Governors Association met virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. While media was not permitted to join the call or obtain a transcript, Cox described the conversation as positive, powerful and persuasive. 

“It’s easy to forget what’s actually happening over there and I think this was an important call and an important reminder to all of us of the terror that is being inflicted on ... millions of innocent people, in a country that we care deeply about,” Cox said.

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“This isn’t just a Ukraine war. This is an existential threat to freedoms everywhere,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, paraphrasing Zelenskyy. 

Murphy, who is the chairman of the National Governors Association, joined Cox after the call to speak to reporters virtually. Cox is the vice chair of the association, and both governors reaffirmed their support for Ukraine, which has been at war with Russia since 2014 and has been fighting off a full-scale invasion for over a year. 

Amid the conflict, the U.S. has sent nearly $115 billion in emergency funding to Ukraine — that military aid has been credited in the country’s ability to effectively fight Russian forces along the eastern front. The U.S. Department of State recently accused Russia of war crimes, and Zelenskyy himself said American support has saved thousands of lives, according to Murphy.

Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart also met with Zelenskyy on Tuesday, joining several members of the House Intelligence Committee in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s stand against Russian aggression — and its stand for freedom — has inspired us all,” Stewart wrote on Twitter. “It was an honor to visit Kyiv and meet with Ukrainian President (Zelenskyy), and it was an honor to see their remarkable efforts first-hand.”

But some Republicans have questioned U.S. support for Ukraine, asking the White House to clarify its long-term position. Others say the military aid is escalating the conflict. 

Among those critical is Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who previously voted against sending aid and recently said on Twitter that NATO countries should “take this conflict at least as seriously as the United States has, if not more so.” 

“After sending $113 billion to Ukraine in 2022, why should the U.S. even consider sending more until every NATO member (1) has begun spending at least 2% of its GDP on defense, and (2) has spent at least of much of its GDP on Ukraine aid as the U.S. did in 2022?” Lee said on Twitter earlier this year.

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Cox on Tuesday agreed that there should be oversight to the aid being sent to Ukraine. But he pointed to what he calls a “false narrative” that suggests the U.S. has two options — write Ukraine a blank check, or stop all financial support. 

“I don’t think anybody agrees that there should be a blank check. We should always be very careful with where we’re spending our tax dollars and what we’re getting for that. But I can tell you there’s a very unified front as we meet as governors,” Cox said. 

The Utah governor also said that despite the messaging from some Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, that aiding Ukraine is not a vital U.S. national interest, polling suggests widespread support among GOP voters. 

“By and large, there is still support for Ukraine. The extent of that support is always up for debate. But I believe … that this is a threat that is not just to Ukraine, but a threat that could spread to our other European allies, our NATO allies, which would then lead us into a much darker and more dangerous place,” Cox said. 

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While federal aid to Ukraine is approved by Congress, Cox and Murphy briefly touched on the role of the states. 

“We’re grateful for the businesses, the defense contractors and others that are making the weapons that are protecting Ukrainians,” Cox said. 

And Murphy said that governors can use their “bully pulpit” to “remind our citizens of the importance and why we’re in this fight, amplifying the need to continue to be unwavering in our support.”

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Correction: A previous version incorrectly referred to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy as Chris Murphy.

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