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OPINION

The Reagan Doctrine and Ukraine – A Plan of Action

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

It was August 1988. I was in Communist Poland, which was controlled by a Russian puppet, Wojciech Jaruzelski. Our delegation from a Solidarity-sponsored conference outside of Krakow, where I had spoken, was making a pilgrimage to Auschwitz.

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Workers from Solidarity were simultaneously striking in Gdansk in the North. And the government had just declared a state of emergency. About a decade earlier, a similar state of emergency had resulted in the imprisonment -- and worse -- of many, if not most, Solidarity leaders.

The police stopped our convoy and began trying to make arrests.

And I had just called for the overthrow of the Jaruzelski regime -- publicly.

So, when it comes to Vladimir Putin's efforts to gobble up Ukraine and Belarus into a reconstituted Soviet Union, I know which side I'm on.

And I sense that, after raising questions with respect to Biden's tepid policies in Ukraine, an overwhelming majority of conservatives agree with me.

There are many bad reasons for American non-involvement in Ukraine — and one good one for American engagement.

Ukraine has suffered through a bloody, difficult history, and it has lots of problems.

After 5-10 million Ukrainians died during the Stalinist purges, Ukrainians had millions of reasons to hate the Soviets during World War II -- and to support Stalin's demise.

Much later, when I traveled through Kyiv, the Soviets had kept the Soviet Union (outside Moscow and Leningrad) in stark poverty -- bleeding the provinces in order to perpetuate the myth of Moscow's military and industrial machine. Elderly grandmothers in Kyiv sold shriveled rotten applies at the station to eke out a miserable existence.

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More recently, Ukraine has been wracked by corruption, including the rise of Burisma and capitalism's Wild, Wild West.

But war -- particularly war against long odds and grave consequences -- creates heroes. And Volodymyr Zelensky has stepped up to the plate. When offered a limousine to evacuate him to safety, Zelensky instead asked for more bullets -- and remained in the line of danger even as the Russians were closing in on Kyiv.

The likes of Nancy Pelosi have tried to latch onto his popularity, but that doesn't mean that conservative should shun him.

True, also, that America is war-weary -- with efforts at "nation-building" not going as well as we had hoped.

But, if there is a part of history where the U.S. does have a concrete stake, it is the prevention of the re-emergence of a unified genocidal coalition of Communist adversaries -- armed with nukes.

So it may be time for conservatives to engage. And it is long past time for the Biden administration to cease dividing Americans on the Ukrainian issue for the purpose of creating a conservative "foil."

Finally, the Russians' genocidal obliteration of entire cities like Bucha and Mariupol have resulted in retaliation by Ukrainian soldiers as well.

There is no excuse for this, Russian atrocities don't excuse counter-atrocities. That said, war is not beanbag. Ultimately, understanding the flaws of both side, a nation has to choose which is the more unthinkable outcome.

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Sometimes, history raises flawed men to heroism and flawed nations to greatness.

In sum, Ukraine has been thrust onto the frontline against an ideology that has murdered more civilians than any movement in the history of the world -- and seeks to achieve the emergence of an effective counterweight to American power. We cannot always choose our battlefield, and we will never have perfect allies.

Senate Republicans now need to step up to the plate.

Individual senators have the power to change the world, assuming they are willing to take the risk and make the effort.

Midway through the Reagan administration, conservatives received word that the State Department was about to suspend aid to the Mujahideen, who were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Senator Steve Symms (R.-Idaho) offered an amendment to call for continued support of the anti-Soviet militants. I drafted that amendment, although I was only the nerd-technician.

While initially criticized for being a non-binding sense of the Senate amendment, within two weeks we began receiving reports that the overwhelming vote on the Symms amendment had turned the corner at the State Department. Support for the Afghan rebels continued, and within a few years, the Soviets were forced to withdraw. This was the first domino in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The bottom line is that small steps are better than no steps at all.

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The Biden administration is perfectly willing to spend other peoples' money on Ukraine, but it is unwilling to take effective steps that challenge Biden's cowardice or irritate their supporters.

Example: Poland has expressed a willingness to provide Mig59s to Ukraine -- an aircraft which Ukrainian fighters have the capacity to fly -- a step Vladimir Zalenskyy contends would make a big difference in Ukraine's ability to thwart the genocidal Russian aerial bombardment of the Ukraine civilian population.

Poland asks for two things: First, that the transfer take place through Ramstein (American) airbase -- a transaction which Biden (or Congress) would be required to approve. Second, the Poles are asking that the Mig59s that they give to Ukraine be replaced with American fighter jets for Poland to use in the future and their own defense.

Forty-two Republican Senators have sent a letter asking Biden to approve, but Biden has ignored them. No aid page to Ukraine would be allowed to come to the Senate floor without a vote on this issue. I have even drafted the language.

Another area where the U.S. could be of considerable help is to open its energy spigots to replace oil and natural gas which Putin is threatening to cut off to Western Europe. Poland has prepared for this gambit by expanding its Baltic Sea part capacity. Much of Europe has not been so prescient.

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Biden could offset Putin's sanctions on Western Europe -- plus reducing the almost-50 percent of Russia's economy fueled by energy resources by reopening ANWR and other federal lands to drilling and opening major pipelines. And yet, domestic political considerations trump (no pun intended) Russia's threats to the Free World.

The real problem is that Biden is facing a disastrous election where his ability to shift blame to the "pro-Putin GOP" for the outcome in Ukraine may be the only card in his hand.

If Republican Senators cannot work together against a common enemy, at the very least, they should not be cast as the scapegoat.

Michael Hammond is the former Executive Director of the Senate Steering Committee and was often called the "101st Senator" when he worked on Capitol Hill. Today he serves as the General Counsel of Gun Owners of America.

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