Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a national security expert, gets real about the threat from Russia

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., does a television interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By Bonnie Fuller

March 22, 2024

The Holly native was a CIA analyst, did three tours in Iraq, and worked for the Department of Defense under two presidents. She says the ocean can’t keep Americans safe from Putin.


MICHIGAN—Republicans in the US House of Representatives, under pressure from Donald Trump, are refusing to provide military aid to Ukraine. And if you think that doesn’t affect folks here in Michigan—think again, warns US Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan’s 7th District. 

Slotkin, who is running to fill what is widely considered to be the only competitive open seat in the Senate this year, told The ’Gander that House Republicans’ continued efforts to withhold $60 billion in desperately needed military aid for Ukraine, first requested by President Joe Biden last October, will endanger Americans’ security here in Michigan.

“We can be attacked in our homes, we can have our power grid knocked out by an adversary in the middle of winter in Michigan. That would surely have an impact on people’s lives,” said the Holly native in an exclusive interview.

Unlike many in the 118th Congress, Slotkin—who has represented District 7 since 2019—is a national security expert. As a CIA analyst, she spent three tours in Iraq helping US troops counter violent militias. She worked on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, and for the Department of Defense under President Barack Obama. And from 2015 to 2017, Slotkin was the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, overseeing defense policy in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia. 

“This has been one of the hardest things to articulate to skeptical audiences who say, ‘Look, I’m dealing with inflation. I’m dealing with the economy and housing prices, and we’re sending millions worth of military aid to the Ukrainians—that doesn’t compute,’” Slotkin said. 

She gets that, she said. Prior to starting government work, Slotkin grew up on a three-generation family farm. She’s often noted that she’s a “Midwestern Democrat”—someone who’s focused on the economy and protecting the middle class.


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“So the way that I think about it is, first and foremost, since the end of World War II, the United States has basically said we prefer democracies over authoritarian regimes,” she said. “And if a democracy gets invaded, we’re going to defend it. So that’s basically what we’re doing, but we’re doing it without American sons and daughters having to go to war.

“We’re sending weapons and materiel, other countries are sending weapons and materiel so that it’s not American boots on the ground and other boots on the ground. It’s just arming and empowering the Ukrainians. And while it is expensive—there’s no doubt about that—it would be 10 times more expensive if we just let Putin roll over Ukraine and then go into the next country and the next country, prompting us to eventually see ourselves in some sort of hot war where American sons and daughters—not just treasure, but blood—is being called into action.”

The consequence of that, Slotkin said, would be a much bigger problem than many politicians are willing to admit. 

“I think the truth is, if we decide that we’re no longer defending democracies, that there’s no difference between a democracy and an authoritarian regime, well, number one, it’s the end of American principled leadership in the world. But it’s also then giving over leadership to people like Putin and the Chinese.”

Slotkin stressed that letting Vladimir Putin “roll over” Ukraine could result in fallout that includes inflation in America.

“Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe…If you care about the price of food and you want inflation to come down, letting Putin tramp all over Ukraine and hold all that grain,” she said, “don’t be shocked if the price of grain, which goes in so many things, is going to shoot the price of food way up.”

The effects of Russia either destroying Ukraine’s farmland or withholding its grain from the world would hurt Michiganders in more ways, said Slotkin, who traveled to war-torn Ukraine in 2022 and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Don’t be surprised if countries that are poorer than us start to have real food insecurity, political instability, societal violence,” Slotkin said. “I’m worried about Egypt and other places that are vital for our shipping. Suddenly the price of shipping goes up. It’s not hard to imagine that if Putin controls Ukraine, the deep effects it would have on the world economy—the way it would affect international freedom of navigation and shipping.

“That washing machine you’re waiting for or that product you’re waiting for suddenly is double or triple the price because of shipping, so it would affect our economy in the United States immediately,” she continued.

She also pointed out that an emboldened Vladimir Putin can actually attack America in other ways.

“It’s not just tanks and airplanes,” she said. “It’s these tech-infused tools. We can be attacked in our homes.

“[Putin] has shown not only a willingness to invade countries and their neighbors, but to try and affect our elections, to try to sow dissent among Americans. The Russians have capabilities of a cyberattack inside the United States, kind of like a cyber-9/11 for us.”


READ MORE: Cheney breaks with Republicans to endorse Slotkin


Slotkin and most of her fellow Democrats in the House are eager to vote yes on military aid to Ukraine, if given the chance. She strongly disagrees with the idea that the US can remain safe and unaffected by outside conflicts in the world. 

Back in February, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would provide military aid to the distressed Ukrainians, who are running out of weapons to defend themselves two years into Russia’s unprovoked and deadly invasion

But House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, has obstructed House members from voting on the bill for months. He has done so under pressure from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has called Putin a “genius” for his invasion of Ukraine. 

“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine—of Ukraine—Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump said in a 2022 radio interview with “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show.”

Trump also boasted at a 2023 CNN Town Hall that if he is elected president in November, he “will have that war settled in one day, 24 hours.”

That’s something that his own former vice president Mike Pence called out as a capitulation to Putin. “The only way that you’d solve this war in a day is if you gave Vladimir Putin what he wanted,” he told Fox News.

Slotkin wants Michiganders to think about whether they value America’s role as the foremost leader of democracy in the world—or if they’d rather see that role abandoned. 

“While American leadership is not perfect—no one would ever say that our leadership is perfect—I’d always prefer American leadership to Russian leadership or Chinese leadership,” she said.

Slotkin remains mindful of the 900,000 Michiganders of Ukrainian and Polish descent who “get” the threat that Putin represents to Ukraine and all of Eastern Europe. 

“Putin did this crazy gambit and it’s a choice that we have to make, whether we’re going to (continue to) support the Ukrainians,” she said. “I think the cost to us in blood and treasure, if we do nothing, is way higher.” 

That’s a bill that she doesn’t want her fellow Michiganders to have to pay.    

Slotkin will face a handful of Democrats in the August 6, 2024 statewide primary election. If she wins the primary, she’ll be on the general election ballot in November. To register to vote, get an absentee ballot, find your polling place, or see a sample ballot, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center.



  • Bonnie Fuller

    Bonnie Fuller is the former CEO & Editor-in-Chief of HollywoodLife.com, and the former Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, USWeekly and YM. She now writes about politics and reproductive rights.


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