Although bi-partisan support for American support of Ukraine remains strong, bizarrely there is a growing resistance to it by the Republican Party’s far right. An influential national conservative television news outlet and adhering politicians have turned their back on the historic tenet of their own party — opposing Russian predation.
Moreover, Ukraine is “strategically irrelevant.” “Why shouldn’t I root for Russia, which I am?” So extreme and consistent has been the messaging –- complete with only slightly less antipathy toward NATO — that a Russian television host applauded, “Tucker Carlson is one of the brightest personalities of the American conservative television channel Fox News. Sometimes it seems that he attends advanced training courses at the Russian Foreign Ministry.”
The scorn for Ukraine and panegyrics on Putin cannot be dismissed as mere partisanship. Fox News and like-minded Republican commentators and politicians join squarely with many progressive Democrats, which they purport to excoriate. What was democratic President Obama’s position in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014? “We do very little trade with Ukraine and geopolitically what happens in Ukraine doesn’t pose a threat to us.” And it was democratic President Clinton that shepherded Russia into the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the UN and a host of other international organizations.
Republicans who endorse such views are garroting the Republican Party’s implicit historic torchbearer, President Reagan. It was he who had condemned the Kremlin’s necropolis as the “Evil Empire.” By bending their knee to Putin, Republicans accept his caterwauling that the fall of the USSR was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. In the process, they become apostates from the historic consequence of Reagan’s recasting America’s sclerotic posture toward the Kremlin. He rejected the timorous defensive crouch that Washington’s containment policy had dictated for decades. It was a Pavlovian straitjacket, condemning us to perpetual response to Moscow’s diktat, choice of time and selection of place.
Richard Allen, Reagan’s national security advisor, wrote “One had never heard such words [of an affirmative offensive posture toward the USSR], from the lips of a major political figure. Until then, we had thought only in terms of ‘managing’ the relationship with the Soviet Union. Reagan went right to the heart of the matter . . . He believed we could outdistance the Soviets and cause them to withdraw from the Cold War, or perhaps even collapse.”
Reagan was acutely aware that the USSR was not “Russia,” but a multi-national state, the last great empire. It was subject to the same centrifugal forces pressing for freedom as any empire. He wrote, “We must keep alive the idea that the conquered nations—the captive nations—of the Soviet Union must regain their freedom.” The linchpin was Ukraine, the very first victim of Moscow’s aggression a hundred years ago as it rehammered the Tsarist Empire into a “USSR.” Betrayed by the West after WWI, Ukraine fell to Russian re-occupation and control, ensuring the Soviet Union’s viability for generations, with all the consequences for world.
Small wonder that Ukraine’s reclaiming its independence in 1991 meant the end of the Soviet Union. That meant America’s strategic slide was stopped, as it recouped an uncontested global primacy that wasn’t seen since the end of WWII. All logic dictates that Ukraine’s status as an independent democracy be preserved. Why any objections?
With America’s global credibility in tatters, why would any American wish to make it worse? Ukraine is not Carlson’s dismissive “small country” like “Denmark or Senegal,” but the largest country in Europe, the size of England, Germany, Hungary and Israel, combined. Carlson’s angst about “going to war” with Russia over Ukraine is transparently specious. Ukraine is not asking for U.S. boots on the ground. Regardless, what of Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia or other NATO members whose entire populations are less than Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city with a population of nearly 3 million?
Independent Ukraine surrendered the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, larger than that of China, France and Great Britain combined. It was, at US insistence, transferred to Russia, of all places. That was under a democratic President Clinton.
This manifestly was not, as today in Iran, a matter of Washington seeking to forestall simply a prospective nuclear capability. Ukraine also imploded a massive nuclear industrial base and what was the USSR’s largest ICBM plant. Moscow used it to manufacture the missiles it placed in Cuba. How much is all that worth to America . . . and the West? What is America’s credibility, before friend and foe alike, if it walks away? Never again.
Ukraine has been America’s ally in the “war on terror” and its other missions around the world. Indeed, it is the only country that is challenging Russia as the progenitor of “Arab Nationalism”–now “Islamic Terrorism”–against the US and the rest of Europe. On 9/11, Putin celebrated the birthday of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka, the KGB’s precursor.
On the anniversary of 9/11, having annexed Crimea, Putin uncorked a $100,000 bottle of wine at its famous Masandra winery. It was vintage 1775. Apparently a more in-your-face 1776 was not available. Who do you think poses as ISIS threatening to kill US military families?
Troops from 51 NATO and other allied nations (including Ukraine) had assisted the U.S. in Afghanistan in what was essentially a civil war. In the midst of America’s shambolic capitulation, it was the Ukrainians who rescued Canadian bound refugees in a special ops action outside Kabul airport that Canadian, U.S. and other NATO troops would not or could not perform.
Since 2014, Ukraine has been defending against the invasion by the largest country in the world. Alone.
Since 2014, Ukraine has been facing down a colossus where only one of its sub-regions is larger than Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran (combined) or, if you prefer, larger than France, Spain, Japan, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Greece, Sweden and North Korea (also combined). Ukraine bears the highest military burden of any nation in Europe, even though it is not in NATO. Even when adjusted for the thirteen years difference in aid duration, Ukraine received less than one percent of the military aid we funneled to Afghanistan. Ukraine is not asking for U.S. boots on the ground. It needs weapons to survive. Not blankets.
In 1932-33, Moscow broke the back of Ukrainian resistance by starving millions, dehumanizing them as mere “ethnographic mass.” Rafael Lemkin, father of the UN Genocide Convention, condemned it as “classic genocide.” Today, Russian calls to kill all Ukrainians are vitriolic. “The genocide of these cretins [Ukrainians who resist] is due and inevitable.” State run Russian TV host, complete with vulgar gesturing: “We will invade Ukraine. We will take your Constitution and burn it and we’ll burn you [Ukrainians] too.”
But there’s more to it. Recently, Russian TV intoned, “The existence of Ukraine harms peace and security in Europe even more than American imperialism.” Raising Ukraine beyond America’s level, alone, should have stopped, cold, Russia’s cheerleaders here. “Peace and security in Europe” are code for maintaining Putin’s choke hold on its own population. That frees him for his self-assured assault against America.
Ukraine is the fount of one of Europe’s oldest democratic traditions, having written a democratic constitution 77 years before our own. Today, Ukraine is democracy in action, with a vibrant civil society that Russia never had. Securing Ukraine as the democratic anchor in that part of the world will stymie Putin’s ambitions and deflect him inward to address Russia’s looming fault lines. This would allow America to more fully deal with China. Indeed, Ukraine is the tripwire for China invading Taiwan, its continued marauding in the South China Sea, its threat to Japan and more.
Destruction of Ukraine’s sovereignty is a core postulate in Russia’s total warfare doctrine against the West, and most specifically the U.S., going back at least to 1997.
Defense Minister Shoigu is clear: “Russia can’t afford to lose the information war.” How do you win? He spelled it out long ago: by “undermining the political, economic and social system, mass indoctrination of the population for destabilizing society and the state, and forcing the state to take decisions in the interests of the opposing party.” Foot soldiers are needed. Subjective subversive intent is irrelevant. And if half of America’s political spectrum is besmirched in the process, all the better.
This is a reprint of a EUToday article dated February 21st, 2022 with permission from the author Victor Rud