By Rich Berdan
(DCNF) Questioning the billions of dollars being sunk into the Ukraine conflict, which has resulted in a devastating loss of life, an ensuing energy crisis, and a real threat of nuclear war got you tarred as a Putin sympathizer. Although the “red wave” did not materialize in the midterms, the new GOP majority set to take the House and the purse strings funding this preventable war provides a chance to re-examine unlimited support for Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and begin de-escalation to end the conflict.
The real question is whether the West is truly fighting for democracy or hell-bent on confronting Russia and involving Americans in another war. Biden’s answer seems clear: Putin is the scapegoat for everything wrong in America, whether it be claims of Putin’s inflation, Putin’s gas hikes, or for aiding President Trump’s win in 2016. Biden told the world from Warsaw on March 26 that Putin “cannot remain in power”.
It would seem Biden’s narrative has come back to haunt him as Americans and Europeans feel the economic pain. Voting constituencies have become tired of the “democracy at risk’ narrative for a country that is far from democratic.
Let’s take a closer look at the country receiving $60 billion of largely unaccounted aid – the largest in a single year since the Vietnam War. Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice has suspended 11 opposition parties, including the largest, the Opposition Platform For Life. Zelensky signed a law that bans parties in Ukraine that oppose the government’s approach to the conflict with Russia. Ukraine’s courts have also seized television channels in a further effort to silence opposition to Zelensky’s rule. Even former President Petro Poroshenko – hardly a pro-Russian politician and member of the pro-NATO European Solidarity Party – is on trial for treason.
The resolution banning political parties can be rightly branded as an undemocratic power grab. When political parties are banned, then conformity of the press and social media soon follows, and democracy is suppressed. We have seen this play out before. Yet, Zelensky continues to reap billions in aid.
But now it seems US officials are holding undisclosed talks with Russian counterparts, and privately nudging Ukraine to signal willingness to negotiate with Russia. This is the only way to maintain increasingly reluctant EU support when Europeans are rising up against the cost of living and energy blackouts during a cold winter. Following the midterms, Biden will have to accept that negotiations with Russia will no longer hinge on Ukraine’s demands that Putin be removed from power.
The likely House Majority Leader, Republican Keven McCarthy, will enjoy the ardent support of “America First” conservatives seeking to exit this costly war – those who oppose a “blank check” to Ukraine. McCarthy has stated that Ukraine is not the only important matter for Americans. Americans unable to buy groceries and pay their bills will want to see the aid cut, and there is a good chance newly-elected GOP members in the house will join the 57 House Republicans and eleven US senators who voted against the $40 billion package to Ukraine in May. This setup will complicate Biden’s attempts to secure future military aid to Ukraine.
While McCarthy may find it difficult to straddle the rift between the America First anti-interventionist members of Congress and the hawkish GOP Senator Mitch McConnell-led wing of the Senate, he may find the unlikely backing of the progressive Democratic Caucus. On October 24, thirty progressives sent a letter to Biden urging him to hold direct talks with Russia. While the letter was retracted the next day, it further demonstrates falling support for Biden with the left-wing of his party and his interventionist stance abroad.
One wonders why the undisclosed efforts and backchannels currently taking place between the US and Russia to end this war could not have taken place early on to advert escalation that quickly spiraled out of control as the conflict became more entrenched with political positions difficult to crawl out from. They do, however, represent an opportunity for the new Congress.
When Russia was preparing to invade Ukraine in December of 2021, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated, “The missile defense systems installed in Romania and Poland can be used for offensive operations. The military infrastructure of NATO irresponsibly gets closer to the borders of Russia. Medium-range American missiles appearing in Europe bring back the nightmare scenario of a military confrontation”.
Lavrov’s nightmare scenario of American missiles in Europe likely references the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when America placed missiles in Italian and Turkish territory while the USSR assembled launch systems in Cuba that could nuke American cities. Lavrov’s statement was Biden’s chance to build the off ramp for the lines of Russian tanks to veer home instead of crossing into Ukraine.
A new Republican majority has a chance to do just that by stopping the flow of money and weapons and pushing the Biden administration towards striking a deal with Russia to stop the war, save money and lives, and preserve Ukraine as a neutral, democratic buffer between Russia and NATO.
Perhaps a removal of NATO missiles in return for Russian guarantees of Ukraine, the Baltic, and other Eastern European NATO members could stop the war and allow for a thaw in Russo-American relations, which can then be harnessed to counter a common threat – China.
Rich Berdan is a freelance writer based out of Detroit, MI.