Although I have discussed Ukraine policy before, I have not mentioned why I think supporting Ukraine is essential. Supporting places like Ukraine, Georgia, and Taiwan is not only the morally correct choice; it also benefits America in the long-term.
I am a believer that the United States, under proper leadership, can help make the world a safer and more inclusive place. I am aware that past events, i.e. during the Cold War or Global War on Terror, make that sound hypocritical. However, the fact that the public has become aware of these events means we are, on average, on a gradual trajectory of improvement when it comes to our conduct on the global stage, even if there are setbacks, both major and minor, under both Republican and Democratic leadership.
The way I think we make the world a safer and more inclusive place is by assisting places like Ukraine. Although Ukraine is far from the most vibrant, tolerant, corruption-free democracy in existence, it is an angel in comparison to Russia. However, I believe most of you are aware of this fact – what some are confused about is why people like me think Ukrainian sovereignty affects Americans.
First of all, I believe supporting and defending democracies has economic value for the United States. This is because today, the United States is much more likely to trade with democracies rather than autocracies. Given that it has become the norm to sanction countries that have abysmal human rights records, and that such human rights records are more commonly enabled by autocratic governments, the United States would be able to trade more openly and freely with other countries. This was not the case in the past, as realpolitik and convenience dictated relationships.
Secondly, I believe supporting and defending democracies has long-term security value for the United States. This is in part because democracies launch wars against other democracies far less often. However, it is more so because smaller, far-away democracies can act as a bulwark against autocratic expansion as we see with Russian expansion into eastern Ukraine.
Why does that matter for the United States? Take Donald Trump, a man who has questioned the existence of NATO. It is quite possible that a future President Trump, or perhaps a more amenable, younger version of him, would withdraw the United States from NATO, thereby rendering NATO ineffective. NATO would fall apart – not just because our allies could no longer count on American firepower, but also because America possesses most of the airlift and sealift capacity of NATO, thus making it harder for Canada and European countries to reinforce one another quickly.
If that happens, the changes I predict would not occur overnight – or even in our lifetimes. What I do see happening a century or two down the road, however, is a world in which an autocratic power begins to establish military bases in allied and neighboring countries. Perhaps there would end up being a Chinese naval base in Ecuador, where Chinese influence over the crude oil industry has, as Ecuador’s president has admitted, gone too far.
To some, that sounds like fair play, or even karma, for the constellation of military installations America has established all over the world. What alarms me, however, is the idea of a constellation of military bases controlled by an autocracy and what they would do with such power. [Insert autocratic country here] bases could implicitly threaten Americans’ freedom of movement and operations, thereby limiting where we could send forces to respond to a legitimate military threat. It could be used to coerce other democracies into making decisions that hurt American security or trade interests further. That creeping future is what alarms me.