By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
The unprovoked aggression of Putin in seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s democracy to restore the ancient Russian Empire of Peter the Great should make Americans nostalgic for the leadership of Ronald Reagan, who stood firm against the Soviet Union to win the Cold War. As America begins to vacillate on defending Ukraine, it needs to consider going back to the future.
In a reversal of partisan priorities President Biden and his Democrats are standing firm against Russian aggression, while Republicans are equivocating, saying America shouldn’t give Ukraine “a blank check” to defend democracy. I’m a non-partisan fiscal conservative who believes that defending democracy in Ukraine justifies increasing America’s national debt.
It’s ironic that the war is being fought by two “Christian” nations. It confuses Christian morality with distorted concepts of patriotism, demonstrating the need for Just War principles in the Law of War to protect non-combatant civilians from the ravages of war. Putin must be held accountable for his crimes against humanity in targeting civilians and their property.
Putin has made the audacious claim that the U.S. and Western democracies defending Ukraine against unprovoked Russian aggression are aggressors. Even Hitler’s Nazi leaders never made such spurious claims about the Allies in World War II. Like the Nazis, Putin and his military leaders must be held accountable for their violations of the Law of War.
Next Spring the Russian people will have an opportunity to hold Putin accountable at the polls. Russia is now a putative democracy and a Christian nation, but past elections have not been free and fair, and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church supports Putin’s policies. The election next year could be a public rejection of Russian democracy and Christianity.
Russia was part of a godless communist Soviet Union until 1989; now it’s supposedly a Christian democracy. It’s hard to imagine a majority of Russians voting to forego their freedom and democracy--not to mention the moral principles of the Christian faith--by extending Putin’s power in Russia; but polls indicate that will likely be the result of the Russian election.
If Putin should win re-election next year from a subservient Russian people without first defeating democracy in Ukraine, it would portend real trouble for the survival of democracies like Ukraine and Taiwan. It would demonstrate that democracies cannot assume their survival in a world including powerful autocracies like Russia and China.
The future of democracy depends on America and NATO continuing to support Ukraine, but that support is wavering among Republicans. China’s Xi is watching the war closely, and the results will influence China’s policies. Republicans need to remember that it was Reagan’s determination to defeat Soviet Communism that won the Cold War, and chide Republicans who don’t see the danger of a Putin victory to America and democracies around the world.
On 2/22/23 NBC News reported that 41% of Americans approve Biden’s unequivocal support of Ukraine, while 50% do not approve. It reflects the partisan polarization in America.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said last week that next year “people are going to be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell countered Mr. McCarthy by calling for “expedited” aid. To his credit, Mr. McConnell has been a strong supporter of a robust U.S. response to Russian aggression in Europe, based on the succinct, and apt, rationale that it is an investment in vital U.S. interests: “The future of America’s security and core strategic interests will be shaped by the outcome of this fight. Anyone concerned about the cost of supporting a Ukrainian victory should consider the much larger cost should Ukraine lose.” The GOP’s mixed signals are music to Mr. Putin’s ears. Also unhelpful, in its own way, was Monday’s letter from a group of 30 progressive House Democrats to Mr. Biden, urging the president to open direct cease-fire negotiations with Moscow. The White House politely but firmly rebuffed the idea, as it should have. This is no time to go wobbly — and that goes for lawmakers in both parties.Republican opposition to a blank check for Ukraine. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/24/ukraine-aid-republicans-democrats-congress/?utm.
There are many reasons why China may not be in a hurry to see Russia’s war in Ukraine end. The idea of a global contest between democracies and autocracies seemed theoretical and intangible when Biden voiced it while running for president. Now it is all too real.
And this new and complicated foreign policy picture is not just a problem for American diplomats. Rising challenges abroad as well, as the depletion of US and Western weapons stocks as arms are sent to Ukraine, pose questions about military capacity and whether current defense spending is sufficient. Key Republicans meanwhile are accusing Biden of snubbing voters facing economic and other problems, even as he tries to position Democrats as the protectors of working Americans as the 2024 campaign dawns. See https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/21/politics/president-biden-vladmir-putin-china-ukraine/index.html.
As China pushes for a ceasefire in the Ukraine war, EU and Nato leaders say the proposal is tainted by Beijing having ‘taken sides’ in the conflict. Beijing’s ceasefire plan is also unlikely to receive support in Kyiv until Russia withdraws from territories it has occupied, an issue that was not addressed in the 12-point position paper. Zhanna Leshchynska, charge d’affaires of Ukraine’s embassy in Beijing, ruled out a ceasefire that would freeze the conflict along the present front line. “Our view is that Russia should unconditionally withdraw all of its forces from the territory of Ukraine,” she told reporters in Beijing on Friday, adding that this meant the country’s internationally recognised borders, which include Crimea. See https://www.ft.com/content/79ab55a7-9e33-448e-9499-611e9caeabd1.
The Russian mercenary boss says Bakhmut is practically surrounded. Russian troops and mercenaries rained artillery on the last access routes to the besieged Ukrainian city, bringing Moscow closer to its first major victory in half a year after the bloodiest fighting of the war. See https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/ukraine-clings-bakhmut-us-readies-400-million-new-military-aid-2023-03-02/?utm.