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As Russia’s war on Ukraine enters its second, disastrous year, the Republican Party must decide what its foreign policy will be. Certainly, GOP support for Ukraine may not be taken for granted, judging by the responses of some presidential candidates, or potential candidates, to a questionnaire released by Tucker Carlson of Fox News. asked by carlson Whether “Opposition to Russia in Ukraine [is] A vital US national strategic interest,” former President Donald Trump declared, “no, but it is for Europe.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis agreed that the defense of Ukraine is not important to the US. Russia’s War , DeSantis said, “is a territorial dispute.”
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Although DeSantis later reversed this stance, such rhetoric risks President Biden losing the high ground of the cause of liberty. While he could have done more, Biden is right to support and arm Ukraine. This is not to absolve the President of his myriad policy failures. History will give no excuse for Biden’s disastrous, aggression-provoking withdrawal from Afghanistan, his appeasement and weakness toward Russia in the lead-up to the invasion of Ukraine, and his insufficient support of Kiev in the early stages of the war. Republicans must work to defeat Biden in 2024 for the good of America and the world.
However, in order to set the right Ukraine policy, the GOP cannot simply oppose the president. Instead it should draw the right lessons from history, including the foreign policy successes of the Trump administration.
One narrative, accepted by some on the right, is that China has posed Real The threat, while Russia’s war on Ukraine, however unfortunate, does not really affect American interests. According to this thinking, the war in Ukraine is a “distraction” from China, and the US should shift its focus from Europe to the Pacific Ocean.
Such arguments are logically flawed. Russian success in Ukraine will give China what it wants: the defeat of democracy, the defeat of international law, and the defeat of American leadership in the world. If Ukraine’s sovereignty is lost, China may jump to the conclusion that it can take Taiwan. The world will become more dangerous.
With the flawed “turn to China” idea, there are calls to announce time and resource limits on America’s commitment to Ukraine. This may sound like a reasonable, conservative stance. But conservatives should see that such self-imposed limits would encourage Russia and China to outdo the US in a race for power and values. Where our will and commitment are weak, His will will prevail; And they are ready for a war of attrition.
Consider the possible outcome if Ronald Reagan announced in advance the limits of America’s final resolution during the Cold War when confronting the Soviet Union. The USSR would have waited patiently for America’s inevitable surrender. Millions would still live under Soviet repression. There would be no free, democratic Ukraine to rescue.
At first glance, the Republicans’ distance from Ukraine might seem in line with Trump’s foreign policy. But Trump’s political successors — and Trump himself, as a candidate — would do well to remember the difference between the former president’s rhetoric and his actions in office. Trump, as a negotiator, consistently used rhetoric to achieve his goals as he sought the best “deal” for the American people from opponents, allies, and even his own military brass.
Along with negotiating and dealmaking, however, Trump exercises a foreign policy of strength. For example, he criticized former President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War, but he disavowed the regional ISIS caliphate. He questioned the importance of NATO, but after successfully persuading member states to contribute more to their budgets, he promoted the organization.
He wanted to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan, but kept a residual force on the ground and the country’s fragile democracy intact. And while Trump talked about better relations with Moscow, he also sold Ukraine weapons — something the Obama-Biden administration never did, even after Vladimir Putin’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea.
In today’s foreign policy debate, the GOP should look to Reagan and the record — if not always the rhetoric — of Trump. Neocon excesses and global false promises deserve criticism. But isolationism, or a previously announced policy of self-restraint toward America’s enemies, will only lead to a more dangerous world. There is no turning back for the world’s only democratic superpower.
Augustus Howard is a columnist focusing on national politics and foreign policy.
Why Republicans must support Ukraine as Biden claims moral victory
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