Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

If Trump is elected, would the US take an isolationist posture?

By Jennifer Feb 25, 2024
Donald Trump, left, chats with Vladimir Putin as they attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on Nov. 11, 2017.Mikhail Klimentyev / AFP via Getty Images

U.S. ELECTION 2024: As Hitler’s armies swept throughout Europe in 1940, Republicans started to express their reluctance to helping Britain with American weapons.

They said that Washington should prioritize “America First” and that aiding London would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The same slogan is now being used by former president Donald Trump and many of his congressional base to justify not offering military help to another European democracy under threat from a powerful authoritarian regime.

“The people of America are entitled to know how their money is being spent. How is the counteroffensive progressing? Are the prospects for victory for the Ukrainians any better today than they were six months ago? In a letter sent this month, more than two dozen Republican lawmakers said that they were against the United States providing further military support to Ukraine.

In the years before America’s entrance into World War II, senators from Ohio, Robert Taft, and other prominent figures warned against delivering Britain a “blank check.” At that time, isolationism was more popular than it is now.

The debate over US neutrality came to an end on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. More than eight decades later, the outcome of the election in November and the deadlock in Congress on a humanitarian aid package to Ukraine might decide whether America continues to lead the world in international affairs or withdraws from its alliances in favor of pursuing an independent foreign policy.

As Ukraine marks two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion, Trump’s congressional backers continue to oppose a proposal to deliver further help to the nation, despite repeated claims from Kyiv that its military are dying due to ammunition shortages.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a prominent supporter of Ukraine, is one of the Republicans who have altered their thoughts from their earlier support of giving greater money to Kyiv.

In addition, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is once again casting doubt on the United States’ capacity to honor its commitments to allies in the event that it regains the presidency and questioning the value of NATO.

US
Sen. Lindsey Graham, right, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville are seen in the U.S. Capitol on May 2, 2023.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Trump vowed to “do whatever the hell they want” in a remark earlier this month if Russia attacked a NATO country that wasn’t paying enough on defense. He has also said that, should a deal to end the war arise, he would consider letting Russia “take over” certain regions of Ukraine.

Author of several volumes on the history of US foreign policy and senior professor at the Brookings Institution think tank Robert Kagan said, “I do see many similarities between the views and arguments of the Taft Republicans of the 1930s and the Trump Republicans today.”

According to Kagan, the author of “The Ghost at the Feast: America and Collapse of World Order, 1900-1941,” “[In the 1930s], there was a fair amount of sympathy with Nazi Germany among American conservatives, who saw Hitler as a bulwark against communism, just as Trump Republicans now look to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin as a great bulwark and leader against liberalism.”

“Britain was certain to lose and that any weapons or money sent to Britain were wasted on a hopeless cause, with the money better spent at home,” Kagan quoted Republicans as saying in the 1930s. This viewpoint is consistent with the views of several Republican lawmakers about Ukraine’s prospects.

Trump’s relentless criticism of Ukraine, the US’s allies, and foreign policy in generalβ€”echoed by his supporters and right-leaning media outletsβ€”appears to have had an effect on public opinion during the preceding three years, according to recent surveys and analysts.

In a recent Chicago Council on Global Issues study, a stunning majority of Republicansβ€”53 percentβ€”said that the US would be better off remaining out of foreign affairs than aggressively engaging in them. In the 49-year history of the study, it was the first time that a majority of Republicans had adopted that position.

Regarding Ukraine, a research conducted in November and December by the Pew Research Center revealed that an increasing number of Americansβ€”particularly Republicansβ€”think that the US is giving Kyiv too much assistance in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion two years ago.

A Pew research found that just 16% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents thought that the current level of assistance to Ukraine was excessive, compared to 48% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who feel that the United States is supporting Ukraine too much.

The vice president of the Atlantic Council think tank, Matthew Kroenig, claims that not so long ago, the Ronald Reagan party would have warmly welcomed the arming of Ukraine against Russian forces breaking into the nation.

Reagan largely created modern Republican foreign policy for more than 25 years. As Kroenig put it, the Reagan Doctrine was all about arming liberation warriors to take on communists wherever they may be in the world. “The party isn’t there right now.”

Unlike Reagan’s beliefs in free markets, US-led alliances, and America as a beacon of freedom, Trump Republicans have negative views on immigration, free trade, multilateral accords, and foreign policy “elites.”

Firefighters extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 10.Yevhen Titov / AP

Despite growing skepticism among GOP supporters over aid to Ukraine, many Republicans in Congress, according to Kroenig, continue to support arming that nation. A minority in the House has, nonetheless, succeeded in blocking a vote on a suggested package for Ukraine.

Republicans who oppose aiding Ukraine believe that Kyiv should give up and start peace talks with Russia.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, said, “I haven’t voted for any money to go to Ukraine because I know they can’t win.” He was one of the more than twenty-one Republicans who rejected in the Senate a proposed aid package to Ukraine. “Donald Trump will stop it when he first arrives. He knows that the Ukrainians will not win. He’s got the ability to bargain with Putin.

Not only Trump or the US is seeing the rise of a new right-wing isolationist and protectionist viewpoint. Far-right parties in Europe are reluctant to arm Ukraine and also question the post-World War II order. These parties advocate for what is often referred to as conservative or Christian nationalism. Polls indicate that they are becoming closer.

Many of President Trump’s supporters have expressed admiration for Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, who has been accused of maintaining friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin while imposing dictatorial control over his people and rejecting European assistance to Ukraine.

The lengthy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially those involving the political left, caused many Americans to lose faith in Washington’s competence to manage international relations and raised questions about the advantages of US military engagement abroad, even before Trump’s ascent to political prominence.

But Trump’s fueling of discontent with the traditional American “internationalist” approach has resulted in a litany of grievances, the main one being that immigration poses a threat to the United States and that the country is treated unfairly by both its allies and the “globalists” who set American foreign policy.

Taking Up Residing in the Space
If Congress rejects the proposed aid to Ukraine and Trump returns to the White House ready to carry out his “America First” program, what would happen to the world and the United States?

According to current and former Western officials and academics, the possibility of regional or perhaps global wars would increase, the world economy may experience increased instability, and authoritarian opponents would try to fill the hole.

In the recent Munich Security Conference, Ricarda Lang, co-leader of Germany’s Green Party, which is part of the country’s ruling coalition, said that if Putin’s Russia wins in Ukraine, “he, but also other forces like China, are going to learn that it’s possible to just change borders and that NATO is not going to hold it against [them]”.

“A world with less security, and… a world with less freedom for the E.U. but also for the U.S.” would be the outcome.

Because of the “rules-based order” that the United States has led since World War II, both the global and American GDP per capita have increased dramatically since 1945. In 1945, there were maybe a dozen democracies worldwide, but now there are more than 100, according to Kroenig. He said that while the United States and its allies have played a significant role in establishing a more prosperous, peaceful, and stable period over the last 80 years, Americans today take it for granted.

“I think that since everything has worked so successfully, people think that even in the event that the United States leaves, everything would still function well. Sadly, that is inaccurate as well,” he said. “If the United States leaves, there will be conflict and economic chaos because bad actors will step in to fill the void.”

“America First” proponents contend that since the end of the Cold War, the world has undergone significant change, the US is currently overextended, American workers have not benefited from free trade, and the nation should focus on its internal needs, which may include tightening immigration restrictions across the southern border.

But at the Munich Security Conference a week ago, Vice President Kamala Harris tried to defend America’s “continued global leadership” and warned against alienating allies.

Furthermore, history has shown us that retreating within ourselves won’t keep problems outside and that turning inward isn’t a solution. Indeed, she added, the more isolated America has grown, the greater the risks.

As to Mary Elise Sarotte, the author of “Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate,” the United States faced attacks of its own when it retreated into isolationism after World War I.

Since then, the approach has failed, and the United States has been committed to starting its defense on the distant reaches of the oceans, the official said. “Going backwards in time would be a grave mistake.”

Gathered News: NBC News

By Jennifer

FIELD REPORTER ON DPUNIV

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