By Marco Levytsky
The emerging race for the presidential nomination of the U.S. Republican Party is fraught with danger – not only for Ukraine, but for the whole world. What’s behind this is the wave of neo-isolationism that plagues the party which once prided itself upon standing up for liberty.
At the front of the pack, with what appears to be a runaway lead, stands Donald Trump. This despite his numerous indictments and the growing evidence that he tried to do what no U.S. President has ever attempted – to overturn the results of a democratic election.
His position on Ukraine is simple – he would end the war in 24 hours. Ludicrous as this seems, it is not that much off base. Judging by previous experience, Trump would simply give Russian dictator Vladimir Putin all he wants and cut off all aid to Ukraine leaving the country without the means to defend itself.
Next in the polls is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who has previously described Russia’s war in Ukraine as a “territorial conflict”. He tried to back away from that during the August 23 debate among the second and third tier Republican presidential candidates but stated he would stop providing aid to Ukraine unless European governments – including key NATO allies – stepped up to “pull their own weight.”
But the most emphatic in his support for Russia was entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy who many pundits are calling the “breakout star” of the August 23 debate. He actually came out and called for the United States to court Russia in order to turn that country away from China. Ramaswamy called it “disastrous” that the U.S. government was “protecting against an invasion across somebody else’s border” and argued Ukraine funding would be better spent on the “invasion of our own southern border.” He also admonished politicians who have visited Ukraine, which includes not only President Joe Biden, but also fellow Republican candidates Mike Pence and Chris Christie, for conducting a “pilgrimage” to “Pope Zelenskyy”.
Ramaswamy would “offer a Korean war-style armistice agreement” that would cede most of Ukraine’s Donbas region to Russia.” And as part of the settlement, he said he would suspend U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, prevent Kyiv from joining NATO and lift Western sanctions against the Kremlin.
This is ominously reminiscent of the 1938 Munich Agreement under which Britain and France callously gave away Czech Sudetenland to Adolph Hitler in the fallacious belief this would bring “peace in our time” as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain put it. Instead, it just emboldened Hitler to grab the rest of Czechoslovakia and then invade Poland, starting World War II. Likewise, such a development today will only embolden Putin to engage in further aggression, this time starting World War III.
This point was also made by former Vice President Pence. “The Reagan Doctrine years ago made it clear we said if you’re willing to fight the communists on your soil, we’ll give you the means to fight it there, so our troops don’t have to fight,” he explained. “If we give Putin this land, it’s not going to be too long before he rolls across a NATO border. And frankly, our men and women of our armed forces are going to have to go and fight him.”
Christie defended his own visit. “I went to Ukraine because I wanted to see for myself what Vladimir Putin’s army was doing to free Ukrainian people. I want you all to look around this arena tonight and imagine that every one of these seats was filled,” Christie noted. “And if every one of them was filled, there would still be 2,500 more children outside to make the over 20,000 who have been abducted, stolen, ripped from their mothers and fathers and brought back to Russia to be programmed to fight their own families.”
For her part, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Hayley slammed Ramaswamy for wanting to “hand Ukraine to Russia” and “let China eat Taiwan.”
“You don’t do that to friends. What you do instead is you have the backs of your friends. Ukraine, it’s a front line of defense,” Haley said. “Putin has said… once Russia takes Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next. That’s a world war. We’re trying to prevent war. Look at what Putin did today. He killed Prigozhin. When I was at the U.N., the Russian ambassador suddenly died. This guy is a murderer. And you are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country.”
Unfortunately, Haley, Christie and Pence are all trailing among Republican voters. Their chances of gaining the nomination are very slim.
So what has happened to the party that once prided itself on the role it played in bringing down the Iron Curtain? In an August 7 opinion piece for CNN Adam Kinzinger, a former Republican who served 10 years on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, put it this way:
“Before Donald Trump, Republicans were not the type to abandon a fight for a strategic partner’s democracy, handing a potential victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin. We were the warriors of the Cold War who brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“With Trump, who has embraced Putin, some Republicans are learning to let go of America’s role as the bulwark of democracy and freedom. These Republicans are choosing, instead, the tragic isolationism of those who opposed joining the fight against Hitler,” he said referring to the “America First” movement of the 1930’s, a slogan Trump has embraced as his own.
Kinzinger has hit the nail on the head. This self-absorbing, and morally irresponsible policy led to a global catastrophe in the past. It will do so again, but this time the catastrophe will be infinitely worse.