US Republicans who want diplomacy with Russia are about as ‘pro-Putin’ as Reagan was ‘pro-Soviet’
“For somebody who has the picture of Ronald Reagan on his wall in his office in the Capitol, the notion that now Kevin McCarthy is going to make himself leader of the pro-Putin wing of my party is just a stunning thing,” said Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on NBC’s Meet The Press last Sunday.
So what exactly was McCarthy’s crime? He dared to suggest that Washington shouldn’t issue a “blank check” to Ukraine, sparking fears among establishment neocons in both parties that if the Republicans win a majority in November’s midterm elections, and McCarthy takes Nancy Pelosi’s position as House Majority Leader, then the flow of billions of dollars in cash and weapons to Ukraine could stop.
It’s no wonder that Cheney considers that to be a possible election outcome, since 57% of American voters also want negotiations with Russia, even if it means making concessions to Moscow, according to a Quincy Institute poll from September.
Americans have bigger things to worry about, like paying the bills amid growing inflation and energy costs, with Ukraine way down their list of priorities. And one of the obvious outcomes of being cut off from US support is that Ukraine would ultimately have to make its way to the negotiating table – something that Cheney and her ilk apparently find more distasteful than the idea of Ukrainians continuing to suffer and perish on the battlefield so Washington can persist in its attempts to grind down Russia.
Former US president Ronald Reagan absolutely had off-ramps in mind amid the Cold War. The Reagan Doctrine consisted of ginning up US-backed proxy wars against Soviet interests all around the world from Africa to Latin America and the Middle East – which is exactly like what Washington is doing in Ukraine against Russia. But despite his aggressive rhetoric and actions, Reagan just as aggressively engaged in diplomacy with the Soviets – something that we’re not seeing from the Biden administration.
The current White House is also anti-Reagan in its recklessness. “For the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have the threat of a nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going,” Biden said at a Democratic Party fundraiser in early October. “We are trying to figure out, what is Putin’s off-ramp?”
Here’s a thought: Maybe try asking him rather than guessing? That’s what diplomacy is for. You sit down with the other party to a conflict, lay your cards on the table, and start figuring out. Ronald Reagan didn’t just shrug off nuclear Armageddon in a public address. By all accounts, nuclear Armageddon terrified Reagan and it’s what drove him to the negotiating table with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, resulting in an arms control treaty in 1986, and well before the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Reagan also didn’t tell the Soviets that Washington-backed proxies in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, and Libya would solely determine how and when these conflicts would end. Unlike, Biden, who figures that Ukraine will be the ultimate arbiter. Peace deals between Washington proxies and their opponents always involve the US. No one is fooled as to who’s fueling these conflicts. If funding and weapons flow ended, then negotiations would be the only exit ramp. To play dumb and pretend otherwise in the case of Ukraine is just an excuse to perpetuate endless war – which is exactly what Cheney and the neocons from both sides of the US political aisle who agree with her are effectively supporting.
What Cheney considers to be the “pro-Putin wing” of her party is actually the most Reaganesque. Even Putin himself is more Reaganesque than Cheney thinks, having adopted the supply-side “Reaganomics” of lowering taxes, less regulation, and anti-inflationary monetary policy. If the Biden administration was more respectful and cordial with geopolitical foes, as Reagan was with Gorbachev and towards the Russian people whose technological accomplishments he reportedly admired, then maybe it could grease the skids for a peace agreement.
During a private visit to Reagan’s Rancho Del Cielo near Santa Barbara, California (also known as the “Western White House” during the Reagan years) several years ago, I had the opportunity to sit at the table where Reagan kicked back with the Soviet leader just after the end of the Cold War in 1992. As acrimonious as things seemed during those critical times of major East-West tension, Reagan didn’t stop reaching out in all his affability.
And speaking of the end of the Cold War, one of the Harvard economists who headed to Moscow in the ‘90s as an economic advisor – who can hardly be accused of being “pro-Putin” – is also now pointing out how ludicrous it is to bank on the current US position of a Ukraine military victory at all costs. “What it means is an escalation of the war, an escalation of global dangers, an escalation of the economic fallout and a lost opportunity to find an off-ramp to this conflict as was taking shape already,” said economist Jeffrey Sachs, who is now a Columbia University professor.
Republicans, or anyone else, questioning the neocon endless war strategy in Ukraine are about as “pro-Putin” as Reagan was “pro-Soviet.” Cheney’s selective read of the Reagan era, and of the man and leader himself, does a disservice to his legacy of diplomacy and to those who seek to carry it on.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.