Mead on “Ukrainegate”

I thought you might be interested in Walter Russell Mead’s take as expressed in his Wall Street Journal column:

Much of the American foreign-policy establishment, both inside and outside the government, is liberal internationalist and Atlanticist. They believe that America’s chief task is to build a world order on liberal principles and that America’s chief allies are the NATO and European Union countries that share our convictions. They see Russia as the primary opponent of this effort and therefore of the U.S. Moscow’s efforts to interfere in European and American domestic politics threaten the cohesion of the EU and the liberal democratic principles for which the West stands. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea are direct attacks on liberal order and the Atlantic world.

From this perspective, the war in Ukraine matters to the whole world. To use Ukraine’s aid as a bargaining chip in a cynical domestic political ploy isn’t merely a political dirty trick. It’s collusion with the enemy. It’s like blocking Lend-Lease during the Blitz to make Winston Churchill investigate Thomas E. Dewey. President Trump’s exact feelings toward the Kremlin aren’t of great importance. It doesn’t matter if he is being blackmailed into it, sees the Russian president as a soul mate and fellow traveler on the road to destroying American democracy, or is a malignant clown bent on destroying a complex international system that he doesn’t understand. Donald Trump, his most determined opponents believe, has committed something very close to treason even as he shamelessly abuses his office to enrich himself.

For most Republicans, the Ukrainegate question is much narrower: Was Mr. Trump’s attempt to hold back congressionally authorized aid to force Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden a constitutional crime that requires removal from office, or can the decision be left to the voters? Unless investigators can show that Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine to frame the Bidens, to concoct false evidence and make false charges to discredit them, the president’s hold on the White House through January 2021 looks secure.

It isn’t that Republicans don’t care if Mr. Trump is a Russian agent. They approach Ukrainegate differently because many of them, uneasy as they may be about some aspects of his foreign policy, see some much-needed changes taking shape.

Among the administration’s most consistent features is a belief that the U.S. should change the priority it gives to the different theaters in world politics. From this perspective, the center of gravity of American policy must move from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific. Latin America deserves more attention as a growing social and political crisis creates larger threats in the hemisphere—of which the chaos on the Southern border may be only a foretaste.

After Latin America, the threats of jihadist violence and Iranian expansionism make the Middle East the next-highest priority for the Trump administration. Europe, America’s highest priority for much of the Cold War, has fallen to fourth place. For the Trump administration and many of its Republican allies, Russia, because it is weaker and poorer than China, comes after Beijing on America’s list of geopolitical concerns—an important disagreement with the liberal Atlanticist foreign-policy establishment and not the only one.

Beyond geopolitics there is ideology. The rules-based world order means much less to Mr. Trump and to many Republican senators than it does to liberal Atlanticists. The president isn’t a believer in the application of the broken-windows theory of foreign policy—that a violation of one rule in one place materially increases the chance of other rules being broken in other places. A “realist” in the jargon of international relations, Mr. Trump thinks that national power matters much more than international law.

which I expect will evoke quite a bit of skeptical commentary.

I’m trying to distinguish between supporting Trump which I don’t do and supporting a realignment of U. S. foreign policy which I do. I think that most of our European allies aren’t allies at all but passive aggressive clients and there is no practical prospect of their becoming allies. They know what they need to do but they also know they’d be voted out of office if they did.

1 comment… add one
  • steve Link

    The article itself is so awful it doesn’t merit comment. As to your broader point, I dont see any conflict between realignment and not supporting Trump. He, Trump, doesn’t really have any foreign policy, just the plan of the day, usually based upon whatever nut he saw on TV recently was supporting or played well at a rally.


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