The US Response to Ukraine: Shocking?
By Evan Robinson
It is historically difficult to place the United States into one foreign policy domain. Recent memory will remind us of the ideas of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who believed it was the US’ role to protect citizens from “evil leaders and undemocratic systems,” serving as the de facto international police. However, American Foreign Policy was not always like that. Once upon a time, people such as US Senator Robert Taft, an outspoken leader in the anti-interventionist movement, opposed FDR’s war policy, eventually leading a coalition of individuals against intervention in World War II and later the Truman Doctrine. Robert A. Taft, The Constitution and American Foreign Policy, 1939-53. The Isolationist movement, as it is known, virtually died out after the US became the world’s sole free superpower, as most Americans and American policymakers viewed the Communist regime in the USSR as the number one threat to the United States. Fast forward to today, the US public is now divided on which foreign policy route to adhere to. Those who believe America should remain disengaged from the world are a rebuke of the failed policy of the Bush Administration, growing pains at home, but most importantly, disinformation. Disinformation is reaching the screens of millions, who believe that US foreign policy elites are manufacturing conflicts through shady dealings and historical intransigence. In the case of Russia, the likes of the American extreme, but primarily right-wing political pundits, are attempting to lead the United States wholly disengaged from Europe’s battles–precisely what Putin wants.
When the US intelligence community concluded that it was indeed Russia who interfered in the 2016 Presidential Election, one may have expected complete unity from the American public. Furthermore, when Robert Mueller launched his probe into whether then-candidate Donald Trump colluded with Russia to give him dirt on Hillary Clinton, one may have also expected American outrage that Russia–once the US’ biggest enemy was interfering in their elections. However, this was not the case. Americans, especially the supporters of the Trump campaign and later the president, believed these revelations were a “deep state” and “swamp” project trying to disqualify a so-called “political outsider” from the Oval Office. Americans did not realize that this is exactly what Putin wanted–as casting doubt on political leaders, election processes, and democracy would lead many Americans to distrust the democratic systems in America and abroad. As time has progressed, and the American right has become increasingly friendly with autocratic regimes, especially after President Trump’s constant public admiration for figures such as Erdogan, Orban, and Putin, many individuals, formally not concerned with the likes of foreign policy, or maybe even staunch neoconservatives are becoming anti-intervention in Ukraine, and sometimes even Pro-Russia.
Take congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-Indiana), who herself is Ukrainian. Last month, according to a post made on her website, said; “President Zelensky has to stop playing politics and theatre, and start governing to better support his military and local governments.”https://spartz.house.gov/media/press-releases/spartz-presidents-biden-and-zelensky-need-stop-playing-politics-peoples-lives Although this comment may come across as indifferent, accusing Zelensky of political theatre is something straight out of Russia’s playbook. In recent posts, we have highlighted Russia’s attempt to smear Zelensky partially based on his previous career as a TV actor. Why would a sitting US Congresswomen come out so forcefully and rebuke a leader who, by nearly all accounts, is governing Ukraine admirably and necessarily? Congresswomen Spartz is just one in thousands of examples on the American right that uses Russian-style disinformation talking points to advance their political agenda (Republicans are increasingly Anti-Interventionist) but also gives in to Russia and casts doubts on the legitimacy of Ukraine. It is not only Congresswomen Spartz, but Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) who “parroted a Russian talking point with her claim that Ukraine is a country whose “government only exists because the Obama State Department helped to overthrow the previous regime.” Marjorie Taylor Greene Parrots Russian Talking Point on Ukraine – FactCheck.org. Or how about Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina), who called Zelensky “a thug.” Madison Cawthorn doesn’t walk back, calling Zelensky a thug despite widespread condemnation | The Independent The comments from US lawmakers, although they do not represent the general sentiment of Congress, put legitimacy behind the Anti-Ukraine movement.
So why does this all matter? After all, the United States is only one country. It matters precisely because it is the United States. The US is the largest funder of NATO, has the world’s largest military budget, dominates all foreign political discourse, has nuclear weapons, and controls appropriations of billions of dollars of tax-payer money that countries like Ukraine need. The rising anti-interventionist movement amongst the Republican Party threatens Ukraine and helps Russia. When President Trump once said, “there is no reason why it would be Russia,” speaking about interference in the 2016 election, it personified the views of many within the GOP that they do not care about Russian aggression. Statements that symbolize the US days of being the world police are over, and now it is time for Ukraine to fight its own battle, representing many viewpoints within the United States.
It is not only in Congress but in academia where many foreign policy experts, such as John Merschimer, blame the US foreign policy elite, not Russia, for creating the Ukraine crisis (another reason there is so much mistrust). Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault The expansion of NATO onto Russia’s borders, the removal of Russia from the G8, and the starving of the Russian economy through sanctions all highlight to many that Russia had no choice but to invade. This viewpoint is deficient, as the defence of ” he made me do it” will never hold up in an international court. Innocent people are dying, a county is being obliterated, and many blame James Baker and George H.W Bush for policies they made thirty years ago? Although it is not unfair to question those policies, using them to remain indifferent or minimize the culpability of Vladimir Putin is simply misguided and resembles complicity.
If Robert Taft had gotten his way, Americans could be speaking German. If we look to history, it is the times when the world unites around the breach of sovereignty and the horrendous nature of war crimes that success is achieved. The growing US isolationist movement threatens all the success the west has historically achieved. Russia will emerge victorious if their idea “wins the day,” and the US removes itself from the Ukraine issue. Their calculated disinformation campaign has won over many on the American right, questioning the very legitimacy of Ukraine. If Russian disinformation is not combated and the movement of isolationism in the US moves ahead, who knows what irreversible harm this will have on Ukraine. The money, weapons, and support the US is leading are helping Ukraine fight Russian aggression. If we don’t do more to fight off the isolationists, we will lose Ukraine and every other nation on which Putin has his eyes.