Kafer: Far right and far left are wrong on Ukraine

“While it is not a mainstream position within the Republican Party, it is becoming a contested position,” Dominik Stecuła, professor of political science at Colorado State University, told me. Should it become a majority opinion within the GOP, it will be disastrous for the party and the nation. That’s why I’m weighing in on the necessity of American support for Ukraine in a space normally reserved for Colorado issues.

The far right is wrong to oppose funding for Ukraine’s defense. They contend NATO pushed Putin into making an understandable preemptive strike against a potentially hostile neighbor whose pro-west bias and desire for self-determination are the result of western machinations. Some even suggest that Ukraine rightfully belongs to Russia.

They are mistaken. Ukrainian nationalist sentiment germinated under Russian czars and Ukrainians fought a war of independence between 1917 and 1922, the loss of which resulted in seven more decades of Russian domination. Today, Ukraine, like other former Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova, remains in the shadow of a neighbor that extorts submission by periodically seizing land.

Russian President Vladimir Putin calls himself a modern-day Peter the Great but he has more in common with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin whose rape of Ukraine was exposed 90 years ago this month by intrepid reporter Gareth Jones. Four million Ukrainians died during the Holodomor–the systematic starvation of Ukrainians intended to kill resistance to Russian Soviet hegemony and quash a movement for independence. My great-grandparents set sail from Odesa at the turn of the 20th century. The family they left behind is no more. Under Stalin, the lucky ones went to labor camps in Siberia, the rest to an early grave.

If the U.S. ceases support for Ukraine, the country will fall and Baltic NATO allies will become vulnerable. Appeasement is an appetizer anyone who feeds a crocodile discovers to his own peril. China will get the message, too; Taiwan is for the taking.

Ironically, the same group of right-wingers who rightfully criticized the failure of President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe are now promoting U.S. isolationism.

This is not the only irony here. During our conversation and in his insightful article in Foreign Policy, Stecuła described how the far left and far right have become odd bedfellows. The idea Ukraine should seek peace by forfeiting land is embraced by a handful of intellectuals on opposite sides of the aisle: Noam Chomsky and John Mearsheimer. Their criticism of U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense is being recycled by decidedly nonintellectual partisans like Candice Owens, Tucker Carlson, and the ladies of Code Pink.

That’s because the far left and far right are smitten with authoritarian leaders they deem ideological allies. The far left never got over its Soviet infatuation and the far right is starry-eyed for Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and others who appear to stand up for tradition against the Powers of Woke. That their authoritarian crush is at odds with freedom of the press, rule of law, property rights, individual liberty, and limited constitutional government, does not cost them sleep.

Meanwhile, the far right views Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as an ally of the American left and President Biden. The friend of my enemy is my enemy in the polarized mind. Filling the populist imagination with nefarious enemies and dastardly plots has become an exercise in brand building for influential pundits especially Fox News primetimer Tucker Carlson. The cable network tacked rightward in a cynical bid to win back viewers who defected to Newsmax after Fox called the election for the rightful winner in the 2020 election. Although the news channel has stopped giving airtime to election conspiracy theory peddlers, Carlson continues to toss red meat to far right viewers in tirades about Ukraine.

Sadly, his talking points end up in tweets by far right politicians and in conversations among rank and file Republicans. If such sentiments become the majority opinion within the party, the GOP will no longer be the party of Reagan. Whether Democrats alone can prevent the abdication of American leadership in the world is uncertain. To the shame of Republicans, they would have to try.

Krista L. Kafer is a weekly Denver Post columnist. Follow her on Twitter: @kristakafer

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