By Chris Sununu
March 18, 2023
The Washington Post
“America First” does not mean “America Only.” It means putting our interests first — and that’s what opposing Russia in Ukraine does. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not a “territorial dispute,” as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis described it this month. Russia is engaged in a war against an innocent people, and it must be condemned. The United States of America is the greatest country on Earth, and we must stand with our allies around the globe to fight aggressive and dangerous regimes that threaten freedom wherever they are.
Simply opposing aid to Ukraine because President Biden supports it is not a viable foreign policy. To abandon Ukraine would set off a negative chain of events for U.S. interests domestically and abroad. Vladimir Putin is knocking at NATO’s doorstep, and without our support — and the support of our European allies — Ukraine will fall, resulting in far graver problems for the United States: conflict across Europe.
For generations, oppressive authoritarian rule has quashed religious freedom and limited individual opportunities across the globe. The United States should stand with freedom-loving people and help support emerging democracies wherever they are. The days of being coy on foreign policy are over.
History has taught us that complacency and appeasement benefit our enemies much more than they benefit the United States. Some in the Republican Party have lost their moral compass on foreign policy, as evidenced by former president Donald Trump, who once called Putin’s invasion “genius” and “savvy.” As Republicans, we should support freedom, not abandon it. We must not equivocate, but rather lead with strength and courage in the mold of Ronald Reagan.
There should never be blank checks when it comes to government funding, and all tax dollars must be spent and accounted for wisely. Yet the price the United States is paying in Ukraine today is far less than the price we will face if Putin continues his westward march, threatening the sovereignty and security of NATO.
As a stabilizing global power and the leading democracy on the planet, the United States has a duty to limit authoritarian and tyrannical aggression, whether it’s Russia in Ukraine or China in Taiwan. If we were to abandon Ukraine, the United States would send an unmistakable signal to dictators that the United States does not stand with its allies, nor for the expansion of freedom. Allied countries such as Japan and Australia would be left to wonder if the United States would tolerate Chinese aggression in the Pacific.
U.S. resolve is being tested, and Xi Jinping is watching. It is easy to see what happens next: Russia and China get stronger; the United States gets weaker. China, emboldened, sees an opening in Taiwan, conflict cascades, and the United States faces an existential threat. The idea that our support of Ukraine is creating a partnership between China and Russia is a straw man.
China and Russia have colluded against U.S. interests for over a decade, and this war has weakened Russia.
What if we had considered Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 just a “territorial dispute”? Under President George H.W. Bush, the United States re-established itself as the trusted leader of the free world by building a world coalition, supporting our allies and protecting U.S. interests.
Unfortunately, Putin is now hearing future leaders of the United States speak with a lack of commitment against such aggression. As Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Today, our commitment to freedom’s legacy is being tested. My hope for the Republican Party — and for the United States — is that we continue to stand with freedom for generations to come. Resolve is the United States’ most powerful tool in worldwide conflicts. We need to show it. Our hopeful vision for the world must be aspirational and ambitious, not apathetic and indifferent.
Chris Sununu, a Republican, is governor of New Hampshire.