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The Republican Party of Reagan would be Ukraine’s strongest supporters

Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence and his daughter Charlotte, place a wreath on the memorial and grave site of Ronald and Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on September 8, 2016. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

In 1984 on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, Ronald Reagan ascended the windswept stage of Pointe Du Hook, Normandy to commemorate one of the greatest sacrifices in the defense of freedom the world had ever seen.   

“We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars,” Reagan declared. “It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.”  

Nearly 40 years after he spoke those words, Reagan’s remarks should serve as a stark reminder and warning to leaders looking out at an increasingly unsettled world who are tempted by the siren’s call of American isolationism, rather than declaring and reaffirming the value of American leadership.  

Reagan’s leadership and vision for a future where democracy would push back the authoritarianism of the Soviet Union and usher in a freer and more prosperous world brought me into the Republican Party I have been honored to represent for more than three decades. Sadly, however, I doubt the great communicator would recognize the rhetoric being used by some of our leading Republican candidates today. 

Heightened political speech is to be expected as we enter the presidential campaign season. However, we cannot as Republicans, or as Americans, allow a healthy debate to be polluted to score narrow political points that ultimately provide aid and comfort for our enemies abroad.   

Some in our party are succumbing to the false temptation that by turning our back on the world, the world’s problems will somehow ignore us and respect our borders. As we have had to learn time and time again from WWII to 9/11, they will not ignore us, and failing to act risks the freedoms and economic prosperity every American benefits from.  

True leadership is about explaining our country’s role in the world and the importance of what happens beyond our borders to our citizens — Reagan knew this and was able to communicate the importance of contesting the Soviet Union at every turn.  

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R-Fla.) attempt last week to frame Ukraine’s heroic struggle for freedom from Russian tyranny, one that has left thousands of Ukrainian men, women and children dead, and displaced nearly a third of the nation, as a “territorial dispute” is not only wrong it is the kind of dangerous rhetoric that sends a clear signal to Moscow (one which they will exploit) that they need only wait and steel their resolve before American attention wanes.  

Our support to Ukraine is about America defending global peace and, thereby, ensuring our own freedom and economic prosperity. It is about ensuring the sovereignty of a democratic country in Europe today to avoid the cascade of conflict that would follow not just there but throughout the Indo-Pacific region as well. Reagan would recognize this truth, just as he saw the truth of the Soviet Union and its hollowness, and it is time that our Republican Party recognize it as well and explain it to the American people.  

Having served on and chaired the House Intelligence Committee during some of our nation’s most perilous times, I can share without hesitation the knowledge that our enemies closely scrutinize every action and every word of our leaders looking for an opening. Beyond Moscow, Beijing too has its eye fixed squarely on Ukraine to gauge America’s willingness and ability to rally the world and our military allies in the defense of freedom.  

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s direction last week for his nation to become a more active “participate in the reform and construction of the global governance system” is a clear indication that both of these repressive regimes believe the time may be right to reassert their failed ideologies to stall the advances of freedom that have largely isolated their countries for the past generation.   

Now is the time to send a clear and unambiguous message to those who stand against the freedoms so many of America’s sons and daughters have fought and died for. While it may play well to a small section of the base, I urge Gov. DeSantis, and all of our candidates running for office, to avoid the easy and wrong path in the face of the hard and right truth: The world is better, and America is safer, when we continue to shine our bright beacon of hope into the dark shadows where tyrants cower waiting to strike.  

Mike Rogers served as the Republican representative in Congress for the 8th District of Michigan from 2000 until 2015, including as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from 2011-2015.   

Tags Politics of the United States Reactions to the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis Ron DeSantis Ronald Reagan Russo-Ukrainian War support for Ukraine US-China relations US-China tensions US-Russia relations Xi Jinping

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