by Paul Dame
Being the Chair of the State Party of one of the smallest states in the country I have been wary of weighing in on geopolitical issues that are far beyond my control or influence. But with the VT legislature on break, and status-quo results from Town Meeting day, my attention has been drawn to the wonder of how Ukraine, a former Soviet satellite has grown in to their role as a young Democracy, and rallied nearly the entire world behind them.
It is easy to forget that perhaps roughly half the people of Ukraine are old enough to remember what it was like to live under the rule of Russian Communists. Perhaps it is that very memory, or living their entire life in the shadow of that memory, that has given their people the resolve to fight for the freedom that is still fresh in their history books.
In a world filled with politicians and administrative swamp creatures who would gladly lie and deceive to protect their status and pension, it has been remarkably refreshing to see President Zelensky swat down the opportunity to escape imminent mortal danger and instead ask for more ammunition – not a ride. Citizens around the globe have to look at their own leaders and ask – “Would they do the same for us?”
While 62% of Americans believe that Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if Trump has won re-election, we have to be clear that this invasion is not Biden’s fault – it is entirely Putin’s. In a premeditated act, Putin massed troops along the border feigning diplomatic negotiations until he had his forces in place, then he swept in to attack the capitol of a sovereign nation. Putin’s blame should be so self-evident that it ought to be one thing Republicans and Progressive Democrats can agree on.
Republicans have responded by calling for a review of our energy policy goals in light of the changing geopolitical environment. There ought to be agreement that whether or not we continue to use fossil fuels longterm- we SURELY shouldn’t be buying them from Russia to finance the invasion of Ukraine right now. President Zelensky agrees and has asked us to do exactly that. By America adopting a more robust energy production policy – even if only during this international crisis – we can both weaken the Russian military, while also supporting Europe’s energy needs.
The only thing that can get in the way of pragmatic common sense, is Democrat ideology. At a potentially pivotal moment in world history America has the ability to help our people, the people of Ukraine and millions more across the globe by simply out-producing Russia and other unfriendly actors in oil-rich companies. If America fails to provide the world with the needed fuel supply, and India, China and other large nations need to make longer term deals with Russia, Iran and Venezuela we risk giving up our position as a global leader that can be relied on in a time of crisis. If the Western world pushes for sanctions with Russia, but is unwilling to provide the energy the world needs – we may find ourselves in a swamp of unintended consequences regarding energy, the petrol-dollar and our position in global markets.
Instead of working with Republicans to address this critical moment in history, it seems that most Democrats are spending much of their time attacking Republicans for patently untrue claims of supporting Putin. Instead of dealing with the world as it is today, they act like their best hope for the midterms is to live in the past where Trump was a convenient punching bag. The world needs Republicans and Democrats to put domestic divisions aside in order to confront the new challenge before us on a world stage that could change rapidly in the next 2-5 years.
My personal prayer is that the crisis in Ukraine can be resolved with diplomacy, sanctions and global pressure, a “banks, not tanks” approach. But I think we all have to keep in the back of our minds that as much as the U.S. should not engage in the kind of military adventurism we have in the past, we need to be prepared to keep the promise we made to defend our NATO allies.
Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons for a vague promise to be protected. If they are unable to stop the Russians on their own, will they feel this was a mistake? Our more formal commitments to neighboring NATO countries like Poland and Romania may be tested as well. What will be more powerful: Putin’s Army – or the American Promise?
Given the news that Putin has begun recruiting Syrian fighters with experience in urban warfare, his designs may be more far-reaching and unconventional than we want to imagine.
Before it comes to that, I hope the world will unite to help Ukraine stop Putin in his tracks. But if Ukraine falls,and Putin persists, the world may look to see what is the value of the American Promise.
The author is an Essex Junction resident and chair of the Vermont Republican Party.