Undermining American unity won’t deter Russian aggression

Many of our forbears died beating back fascist regimes in Europe. Americans today should not question the principles for which they fought.

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The Ukraine-Russia conflict could push gas prices to record highs in California and across the nation.

The Ukraine-Russia conflict could push gas prices to record highs in California and across the nation.

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Americans really should care about the naked aggression in Ukraine: An independent nation is undergoing assault from a larger, more powerful neighbor, a situation that stands to impact our nation if it escalates into a full-scale war.

But rather than helping to build a national consensus, too many Republicans prefer to undermine unity to score political points.

That presents us with a perilous future. For a political party that was a stalwart against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, it is shocking. President Joe Biden has had more success building a coalition with European nations to respond to Russia’s aggression — which is not easy to do — than he has had with Republicans.

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Some Republican leaders have said Biden’s response, imposing sanctions against Russia, has been too weak. Some take an entirely opposite view, criticizing Biden for taking any action in the region. Others, including former President Donald Trump, freely admit their admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressiveness. Trump essentially approved of Putin moving Russian troops into two rebel regions of Ukraine, a flagrant violation of international law.

A common thread in much of the criticism is a disturbing dalliance with authoritarianism, which resonates with too many Americans. A survey of 1,000 American voters between Christmas and New Year’s by Hill Research Consultants found 34% of respondents agreed that “we might have to make America a little less democratic.” Other polls reflect similar numbers. That sentiment could take America to a scary place.

Ukraine sits on the doorstep to NATO. If war escalates, it’s hard to know how far it would go — and frightening to consider the possible escalation. An invasion of the Baltic states or other new members of NATO? China moving against Taiwan while the United States is occupied elsewhere? Hypersonic missiles in Cuba or Venezuela aimed at the United States?

A land war in Europe would affect America’s economy. There could be shortages of palladium for catalytic converters, aluminum, fertilizer and nickel. If Russia shuts off fossil fuel supplies, prices could soar everywhere. Cyberattacks could hit banks and other targets in the United States. If you think we have supply chain problems now, just wait.

This isn’t to say there is never room for thoughtful debate about foreign policy. But in critical times, there is no room for mindless and irresponsible political grandstanding.

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Many of our forbears died beating back fascist regimes in Europe. Americans today should not question the principles for which they fought.

Sensible people old enough to remember the Cold War do not want to see those times return. Nor do they want to see the potential biggest land war in Europe since World War II spread in unexpected ways.

America is near the moment when it will need near-unanimity regarding Russia among members of Congress and other political leaders. We can only hope they will rise to the times.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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