You and I have lived in a remarkable era of peace and prosperity. Throughout all of history, there have been only two other times when most of the world enjoyed such a long largess. For 200 years, between the reigns of Augustus Caesar and Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Empire enjoyed a Pax Romana. The world knew another 100 years of tranquility in the days when Queen Victoria reigned in her Pax Britannica. And, for the last 80 years, starting with the Allied victory in World War II, the world has enjoyed a Pax Americana, a blessed time of amity that both Democrat and Republican presidents have worked hard to protect.
George Washington forged America’s policy of “peace through strength.” Republican Teddy Roosevelt doubled down on the concept saying, “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” Democrat Harry Truman declared that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation.” And, in his first inaugural address, John F. Kennedy eloquently stated about the Russians, “We dare not tempt them with weakness…Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Yet, peace is being tested now, because Putin thinks we are weak.
The opposite is true, of course. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which consists of Europe, the U.S. and Canada, has seven times more citizens and four times more soldiers than Russia. More importantly, NATO’s gross domestic product is 29 times larger, and it spends six times more on defense than Russia. So, why do we seem so helpless?
No one is suggesting that we fight a war against Russia. Such a conflict could easily escalate into World War III. However, the brutal fact is that if Putin had thought the U.S. would stop him, he would never have dared to invade Ukraine.
The late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson described Russia as “a gas station with a flag.” Indeed, Russia’s invasion of the tiny nation of Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014 were both when the price of oil was fantastically high, and thus oil-producing Russia could afford it.
Under the previous administration, the U.S. was energy independent for the first time in decades. Because President Biden has waged a war on U.S. energy, he was then forced to beg the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to produce more oil, but OPEC refused, raising the price of oil even higher.
Because of this, Putin is able to finance his invasion of Ukraine with the profits he makes from the sale of Russian oil. Only this time it is far worse. The U.S. is buying Russian oil even now as Russian tanks roll through Ukraine. Biden says he wants to “buy American,” yet he refuses to buy American energy even if it hurts the Russians.
In another blunder, the White House implored China to ask Russia not to invade Ukraine. The Chinese flatly refused, making us look even more foolish. Worst of all, of course, was our ignoble retreat from Afghanistan. Despots all over the world saw that debacle as an invitation for mischief. Indeed, it is almost like we are back in the 1970s with Jimmy Carter with record inflation, Russian aggression, an energy crisis and violence in the streets. Do not think Putin will be bothered by the deaths of thousands of innocents. Stalin starved some 10 million Ukrainians to death in the 1930s.
Everyone applauds the Ukrainians for their bravery. Indeed, the current U.S. president brags about their heroic resistance as if it is somehow his victory. If the current U.S. president had been strong in the first place, there would not have been a war. That, after all, was the legacy of NATO – peace in Europe for 80 years – until now.
When Biden asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky if he wanted to be airlifted to safety, the Ukrainian president replied, “I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition.” That’s the kind of leadership the “free world” is searching for. If we can’t find it, Taiwan will be next.
Rep. Dave Belton represents District 112, which includes Morgan and eastern Newton counties.