Why are American Conservatives Garroting the Nation that Helped “Make America Great Again”?

No event secured President Reagan’s legacy more than his epochal redirection of American policy -- rejecting “containment” and “détente,” and implementing an affirmative policy of bringing an end to the “Evil Empire,” writes Victor Rud.

Small wonder that, under KGB head Yurij Andropov, operatives in the U.S. were alerted that they may be asked “to get rid of Reagan;” this, from KGB defector, Boris Yuzhin. North Korea’s Kum Il-Sung was equally incensed at the upstart Republican president, and contemplated having Reagan assassinated during his visit to South Korea in 1983.

Although the succeeding Bush administration strove to prevent it, Ukraine’s recovery of its independence in 1991, set the tombstone for the USSR. It halted America’s strategic retreat, allowing us to recoup a global primacy we hadn’t seen since the end of WWII. Prodigious wonder, therefore, that by opposing assistance for Ukraine a growing segment of America’s conservative right is garroting both it and their own party’s implicit torchbearer. It’s one thing to honestly advocate a revised legislative process to better aid Ukraine. It’s another to cheer with paroxysmal zeal for a Russian victory in a genocidal war against the very nation that saved the U.S. from an apocalyptic trajectory. And proclaiming hosannas for the Butcher of Bucha as the elan vital of “traditional values?” The same Yurij Andropov was Putin’s pinup boy in his KGB training. Putin reintroduced Soviet symbolism, laments the fall of the USSR, and unfurls Soviet flags in Russia and now occupied Ukraine. Putin’s confreres on America’s conservative right know that, do they not?

Some context.

After Reagan’s inauguration, at the request of a member of his transition team I sent to Richard Allen, his then national security adviser, an analysis of the failures of our “containment” policy toward the Soviet Union. It was a Pavlovian straitjacket, locking us into a perpetual response/react crouch by outsourcing to Moscow’s diktat the time, place and intensity of the next crisis, the “bureaucratic verbalisation of a policy of drift.” I argued that the trajectory could not continue, and outlined the measures needed to stress the Soviet regime and hasten its dissolution.

I did not know that my proposal meshed with what was already being formulated in the White House. Allen’s April 21, 1981, reply was to the point: “It is our intention to be more imaginatively assertive in all aspect of our foreign policy, but especially in regard to the Soviet Union.” Reagan was acutely aware that the USSR was not Russia,” but a multi-national state, the last great empire, and subject to the same centrifugal forces pressing for freedom as any empire. He wrote, “We must keep alive the idea that the conquered nations—the captive nations—of the Soviet Union must regain their freedom.” Within a year, National Security Decision Directive 32 encouraged “long-term liberalising and nationalist tendencies within the Soviet Union and Allied countries.” A year after that, NSDD 75 called for “internal pressure on the USSR to weaken the source of Soviet imperialism, . . . and to reverse Soviet expansionism,” and to “promote evolutionary change within the Soviet Union itself.”

Back to today.

The Heritage Foundation has been the Brahmin of conservative influence in Washington, priding itself as Reagan’s legatee. Recently it cut its moorings by opposing an additional $13.7bio in assistance to Ukraine, 11.7 for military and economic assistance and $2bio to help reduce rising energy costs. The articulation of the need for “fiscal responsibility” is a rhetorical feint. By one estimate, it cost us $13 thousand billion—and 100,000 of our finest--to win the Cold War, where Ukraine was key to the “win.” And America’s 20 year “war on terror” was another $8 thousand billion. Our aid (no boots) to Ukraine is a fractional percent rounding error by comparison. Moreover, Ukraine is battling against the original terrorist state that in the 1970’s and 80’s spawned “Islamic Terrorism” against America.

Joining Heritage was Concerned Veterans of America, whose mission is “ to preserve the freedom and prosperity we & our families fought for & sacrificed to defend.” The veterans’ opposition in effect endorses Russia’s core postulate in its total warfare doctrine against the U.S.-- the destruction of the very existence of the nation, Ukraine, that helped “Make America Great Again.”

Neither ignorance nor naivete nor individual political ambitions alone explains the apostasy. Nor does partisanship, since on this issue the right has joined in a pas de deux with many from America’s progressive left, and not just of recent vintage. It’s the Democratic party that historically has had the warmer spot for the Kremlin. President Roosevelt extended diplomatic recognition to the USSR in 1933 as Stalin was starving Ukrainians into submission, ensuring the viability of the USSR for generations, with all its consequences. During WWII, the greatest success of Soviet intelligence was the installment of Harry Hopkins as President Roosevelt’s most trusted advisor, and who also headed the wartime Lend-Lease program that also financed the Iron Curtain. It also equipped Moscow in its battle against Ukrainian and Baltic insurgencies, and in quashing uprisings in the Gulag. On Truman’s watch we engaged in a grisly repatriation of Ukrainian refugees in post-war Europe, survivors of the 1930’s genocide. And we sought to hunt down, for Stalin, the informants in the Ukrainian underground who warned U.S. Army Intelligence of Stalin’s plan to assassinate General George C. Patton.

In our lifetime, President Carter saw the creation of nearly half a dozen new Soviet client states. President Clinton hectored Ukraine into surrendering the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal to . . . Russia. He also ensured for Russia the USSR’s seat on the UN Security Council and compared Russian President Yeltsin, in his invasion of Chechnya, to Abraham Lincoln. How is President Obama’s “what happens in Ukraine doesn’t pose a threat to us” different from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s “Ukraine is strategically irrelevant”? And what of President Obama’s bonhomie in the Russian “reset,” and as Senator his 2005 mission destroying Ukraine’s conventional weaponry? President Trump’s “I liked him. He liked me.” and “Getting along with Russia is a good thing,” are of the same genus as President Roosevelt being “determined to make himself liked” by Stalin, and President Truman’s “They’ve always been our friends and I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be. . . so let’s get along.” Little wonder that President Truman didn’t formally adopt “containment” until fully four years following Moscow’s absorption of Eastern Europe and Japan’s northern territories.

As a growing segment of half of America’s political spectrum is feverishly fueling head snapping anomalies, the consequences are monumental. Consider them against the manifesto introduced to the Russian General Staff Academy in 1997, the same year that Washington lobbied for Russia’s inclusion in the G7: “It is especially important to introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements–extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilising internal political processes in the U.S.

It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics. . . .” Among the specific goals are isolating Britain from Europe, introducing discord both within the EU and between the EU and US, and destabilising Turkey. Iran is to be a key player in a Russian-Islamic alliance against America. And Ukraine, as an “enormous danger” to that construct, is to be extinguished.

What would Reagan say?

Victor Rud is the past chairman of the Ukrainian American Bar Association and now chairs its Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is a senior adviser to Open Court, a nongovernmental organisation in Ukraine, and the senior adviser to the Centre for Eastern European Democracy in Toronto. His affiliations are provided for identification purposes, only.

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Victor Rud

Victor Rud

Victor Rud has practiced international law for 35 years, and before the fall of the Soviet Union represented, in the West, political prisoners persecuted by the KGB. He also served as Special Counsel to a member of the US Delegation to the Madrid Review Conference on Security & Cooperation in Europe ("Helsinki Accords").

His commentary has been carried, among others, by Forbes, Kyiv Post, Foreign Policy Association, Defense Report, Atlantic Council, Centre for Global Strategy, and EuromaidanPress.

Victor is Senior Advisor to Open Court, an NGO in Ukraine, and was the keynote speaker at the first L'viv Security Forum.

He is a founder and past Chairman of the Ukrainian American Bar Association, and currently chairs its Committee on Foreign Affairs. He received his undergraduate degree in international relations from Harvard College, and his law degree from Duke University.

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