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Not since the 1930s has isolationist sentiment gained such prominence in the U.S.

By 37ci3 Feb26,2024


As Hitler’s troops swept across Europe in 1940, a growing chorus of republicans opposed the shipment of American arms to Britain.

They said that the US would be wasting resources to send aid to London and that Washington should put “America First” instead.

Now former President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress are using the same slogan to make similar arguments against sending military aid to another European democracy under attack from a powerful authoritarian regime.

Donald Trump, left, talks with Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump speaks with Vladimir Putin during the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang, Vietnam on November 11, 2017. Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images

“The American people deserve to know where their money is going. How is the counterattack going? There is Ukrainians Closer to victory than 6 months ago? more than two dozen Republican lawmakers wrote a letter this month saying they oppose the addition US military aid for Ukraine.

Before America entered World War II, isolationist sentiment had never gained such traction in the United States since Senator Robert Taft of Ohio and others warned against giving Britain a “blank check.”

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 ended the debate about US neutrality. After more than 80 years, the outcome of the impasse in Congress over the aid package for Ukraine and the elections this November could decide whether America continues to play a leading role in the world or whether it withdraws from its alliances and goes it alone. agenda.

Two years after a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Trump’s supporters in Congress continue to block a proposal to send more aid to Ukraine, despite repeated pleas that Kiev’s soldiers are dying for lack of ammunition. Some Republicans who favored sending more aid to Kiev, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an outspoken defender of Ukraine, have also reversed their positions.

Senate dinners
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-C., front, and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., May 2 at the U.S. Capitol.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is once again questioning the value of NATO and doubts whether the United States will fulfill its commitments to its allies if he returns to the White House. Trump said earlier this month he would promote it Russia If he attacks, “do what they want” a NATO country that did not spend enough money on defense. He also said he would consider allowing Russia to “take over” parts of Ukraine in a possible deal to end the war.

“I see a lot of similarities between the ideas and arguments of the Taft Republicans of the 1930s and the Trump Republicans today,” said Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank who has written several books on US history. US foreign policy.

“[In the 1930s]There was considerable sympathy for Nazi Germany among American conservatives, who saw Hitler as a bulwark against Communism, just as Trump Republicans now see him. [Russian President Vladimir] “Putin as a great bulwark and leader against liberalism,” Kagan said.Nightmare on the Feast: America and the Collapse of World Order, 1900-1941.”

Similar to what some GOP lawmakers said about Ukraine’s prospects, Republicans in the 1930s argued that “Britain was certain to lose, and that any arms or money sent to Britain was wasted on a hopeless cause, money better spent at home.”

According to recent polls and analysts, Trump’s relentless criticism of Ukraine, US allies and international relations in general – voiced by his supporters and right-wing media outlets – appears to have swayed public opinion over the past three years.

In a new poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a staggering 53% of Republicans said it would be better for the future of the United States to stay out of world affairs than play an active role. It was the first time in the poll’s 49-year history that a majority of Republicans held that view.

As for Ukraine, the share of Americans who say the United States is too supportive of Kiev has risen steadily since Russia’s full-scale invasion two years ago, especially among Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in November and December.

According to the Pew poll, 48 percent of Republicans and Republican independents say the United States is giving too much aid to Ukraine, while only 16 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters think the current level of aid is excessive.

Firefighters put out a fire after a Russian attack on a residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on February 10.
Firefighters put out a fire after a Russian attack on a residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on February 10.Yevgeny Titov / AP

Matthew Kroenig, vice president of the Atlantic Council think tank, said that not long ago, sending weapons to Ukraine to fight the invading Russian forces would have been fully accepted by Ronald Reagan’s party.

“Reagan really defined modern Republican foreign policy for more than a quarter of a century. “The Reagan doctrine was to arm freedom fighters against the communists, regardless of where they were in the world,” Kroenig said. “Today is not where the party is.”

Instead of Reagan’s ideals of free markets, US-led alliances, and America’s beacon of freedom, Trump Republicans are hostile to multilateral agreements, free trade, foreign policy “elites,” and immigration.

Despite growing skepticism among GOP voters about Ukraine aid, many Republicans in Congress still support arming Ukraine, Kroenig said, but a House minority managed to block a vote on the proposed Ukraine package.

Republicans who oppose aid to Ukraine say it’s a futile effort and it’s time for Kiev to admit defeat and sign a peace deal with Russia.

“I didn’t vote for any money to go to Ukraine because I know they can’t win,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama. He was one of more than two dozen Republicans in the Senate who voted against the aid package for Ukraine. “When Donald Trump first comes in, he’s going to stop that. He knows that there is no winning for Ukraine. He can come to an agreement with Putin.”

The rise of a new isolationist, protectionist view on the right is not unique to Trump and America. Far-right parties in Europe, sometimes advocating Christian nationalism or conservative nationalism, also question the post-World War II order and are suspicious of Ukraine’s arming. Polls show they are winning.

Many of Trump’s loyalists praised Hungary, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been accused of imposing autocratic rule on his country and opposed European aid to Ukraine while maintaining friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Even before Trump emerged as a political figure, the protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq undermined the confidence of many Americans in Washington’s foreign policy administration, particularly on the political left, and raised questions about the gains of US military intervention abroad.

But fatigue with the traditional US “internationalist” approach has become a set of grievances fueled by Trump, with the main argument being that America is threatened by migrants and getting a raw deal from its partners and the “globalists” who shape US foreign policy. politics.

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What does this mean for the United States and the world if the proposed aid to Ukraine fails to win congressional approval and Trump is ready to push his “America First” agenda into the White House?

Current and former Western officials and analysts say that if the United States withdraws from alliances, the risk of regional and even world wars will increase, the global economy could enter a more unstable period, and authoritarian adversaries will try to step into the breach.

If Russia’s Putin wins Ukraine, other powers like China will learn that borders can simply be changed and NATO won’t stand against it. [them]”, said Ricardo Lang, co-chairman of the Green Party of Germany, which is part of the country’s ruling coalition, at the recently held Munich Security Conference.

This would lead to “a world with less security and … a world with less freedom for the EU as well as the US”.

Under the US-led “rules-based order” since World War II, world and US GDP per capita has increased manifold since 1945. In 1945, there were about a dozen democratic countries in the world, and there are still. about 100, Kroenig said. The United States and its allies have helped usher in a more peaceful, prosperous and relatively stable era over the past 80 years, but Americans now take it for granted, he said.

“I think it’s worked out so well that people think it’s a natural situation, that if the United States withdraws, things will go on. Unfortunately, this is not the case,” he said. “If the United States withdraws, bad actors will fill the void and we will have conflict and economic chaos.”

America First advocates argue that conditions have changed dramatically since the Cold War, that the United States has expanded too much, that American workers have been deprived of the benefits of free trade, and that the United States must focus on its domestic needs. fight against migration across the southern border.

But in a speech at the Munich Security Conference a week ago, Vice President Kamala Harris sought to prove America’s “continued global leadership” by warning of the risks of abandoning allies.

“History has also shown us: we cannot overcome external threats if we only look within ourselves; insulation is not insulation. “In fact, when America isolated itself, the threats increased,” he said.

At the end of World War I, the United States retreated into isolationism, only to be attacked on its own soil, said Mary Elise Sarotte, author of “Not a Dream: America, Russia, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Impasse.”

“This approach failed, and since then the United States has decided to start defense on the far sides of the oceans,” he said. “Going back in time would be a big mistake.”



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