American political opinion on the Ukraine crisis of 2014 varies wildly from those who emphasize diplomacy to those who would rekindle the cold war. Here are some examples:
“President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path in close consultation with the government of Ukraine and in support of the Ukrainian people with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis,” the White House said in a statement. “President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, bemoaned “American passivity” under Mr. Obama, declaring that it was “not a path to security,” and calling the reduced American troop levels proposed in the president’s new Pentagon budget potentially disastrous.
Gov. Chris Christie, … (complained) that President Obama had weakened the United States’ stature in the world. He bluntly warned that “when America does not play an active and vigorous role in the world, bad people do.”
(Ted Cruz) says he’d send more missile defense systems to Poland and other Eastern European countries, a Reaganesque idea that McCain and others also support. But Cruz also says he’d begin the process of withdrawing from the 2011 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia — a proposal Reagan, who yearned for nuclear disarmament, might not endorse. The first START was launched by Reagan and completed by his successor, George H. W. Bush the current agreement is a successor to that pact.
“We live in an interconnected world and the United States has a vital role in the stability of that world. The United States should make it abundantly clear to Russia that we expect them to honor the December 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which the U.S., Russia, and the United Kingdom reaffirmed their commitment ‘to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.’ Russia should also be reminded that stability and territorial integrity go hand in hand with prosperity. Economic incentives align against Russian military involvement in Ukraine. Russia, which has begun to experience the benefits of expanded trade with World Trade Organization accession, should think long and hard about honoring their treaty obligations and fostering the stability that creates prosperity for its citizens. Most importantly, Russian intervention in Ukraine would be dangerous for both nations, and for the rest of the world,.”
These global developments have not happened in response to a muscular U.S. foreign policy: Countries are not trying to “balance” American power. They have come due to signals that we are exhausted and disinterested. The events in Ukraine should be a wake-up call to those on both sides of the aisle who believe that the United States should eschew the responsibilities of leadership. If it is not heeded, dictators and extremists across the globe will be emboldened. And we will pay a price as our interests and our values are trampled in their wake.
“There’s no question, but that over the four years where he and Secretary Clinton were working together, and now the year since then, it’s hard to name a single country that holds America in more esteem and respect than when the president took office five years ago,” Romney said on Fox News’s “Hannity” on Tuesday. “It has not been a time of building America’s respect and admiration and esteem and frankly our soft power or our hard power around the world.”
Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, suggested that the president’s foreign policy team had failed to grasp a lesson known to any parent disciplining a child: You cannot waver. “If they don’t believe we are strong,” Mr. Walker said of America’s foes, “they will take action.”
Is the answer to the Ukraine Crisis confrontation and escalation–a return to the cold war–or is it patience and diplomacy? Did the United States and NATO provoke the current crisis by being over aggressive or overly weak? Do we still subscribe to the “domino theory” that led us astray in Viet Nam? Should America seek to be respected or feared? Must Russia be disciplined like a disobedient child? Should we start a new arms race? Dear reader, what’s your view?
© William Hungerford – March 2014