Op/Ed

Editorial: *The* issue of this election

ANGELO LYNN

Just as Ukraine is at a crossroads in its war with Russia, so too is today’s Republican Party as a political crossroads between supporting America’s fight for freedom and against autocracy or siding with authoritarians like Russia’s Putin. The choice is theirs. 

In Ukraine’s effort to repel Russia’s invasion of their country, Republicans can either join Democrats in the House and Senate to continue providing the necessary military aid they need, or, after two years of surprisingly stiff resistance and battlefield victories by Ukrainians, let Russia gain the upper hand.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials warned Monday in their annual public testimony of worldwide threats facing the country that Ukraine would lose more territory to Russia with any further delays in U.S. military aid. The consequences of that lack of support, they said, would not only be felt throughout Europe, but also in the Pacific.

“If we’re seen walking away from support for Ukraine, not only is that going to feed doubts amongst our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific; it’s gong to stoke the ambitions of the Chinese leadership in contingencies ranging from Taiwan to the South China Sea,” said William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director said in his address to Congress.

Telling Congress that the war was at a crossroads, both for security in Europe and for American interests around the world, he said if the House approved the $60 billion I security assistance for Ukraine that passed the Senate earlier, “Kyiv would be able to strike a strategic blow against Russia,” according to a report in the New York Times.

With additional funding, the report continued, “Ukraine should be able to regain the ‘offensive initiative’ by the end of this year or early 2025,” putting Ukraine in a stronger position to negotiate with Putin.

“Ukraine could sustain itself as a strong, sovereign, independent country, anchor itself in Western institutions and have the space and the security to recover from this terrible aggression and leave Russia to deal with the long-term consequences of Putin’s brutal and foolish invasion,” Mr. Burns said. 

On the other hand, without aid, Burns said, “you’re going to see more Avdiivkas (a town recently lost to Russia)… and that, it seems to me, would be a massive and historic mistake for the United States.”

What’s bewildering is that just two years ago, Republicans were the party who stood for military defense of democracy throughout the world and were united in their support of Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s unprovoked invasion. But, recently, with Trump’s rise in party politics and ultra-right nationalists pushing an America-first isolationism, the party has become an obstacle to democracy and world peace.

It’s another realization of how much the GOP has changed under ex-president Trump. Rather than inspire the nation and the world with a grand vision of supporting democracy and freedom throughout the world as President Ronald Reagan did in his famous Westminister Address to the British Parliament in 1982, Trump pretends his own wily ability to buddy-up to dictators like Putin will save the day, while also dismantling NATO and putting aside any thoughts of spreading democracy and freedom throughout the world.

What a sad contrast. Reagan’s address came at a heated point in the Cold War between Russia and the U.S., the spirit of which was captured in a 40th year review of the speech by the Salt Lake City Desert News. The report said the “Soviet Union was advancing a vision of government that crushed freedom, including religious freedom, and sought to advance that vision in the world. Reagan journeyed to major cities in Europe seeking a united front against totalitarianism and the promotion of democratic ideals…. He recognized the world is more secure and more peaceful when democracy flourishes, saying that if the free world had supported democracy abroad ‘some 45 years ago, perhaps our generation wouldn’t have suffered the bloodletting of World War II.’”

If enough Republicans in today’s party could seize just a fraction of that greater vision of America, Ukraine would prevail and become a bulwark against future Russian aggression, and China would likely refrain from years of war and aggression throughout the Pacific. 

Moreover, if Americans are concerned about being drawn into future wars with Russia and China, stopping Russia in Ukraine is the most important issue of this election — and the lessons of World War II are right there to see, if we don’t.

Angelo Lynn

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