Perhaps claims about (and worries over) the GOP’s drift to isolationism have been overblown. On a number of fronts, the Republican Party continues to propound an internationalist view in which the United States remains the indispensable nation.
Whatever the merits of proceeding without Democrats, the Senate, with the glaring exception of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is pro-Iran sanctions and is clearly expressing the United States’ determination to prevent a nuclear-capable state (as opposed to the Obama-Paul slide to containment).
On the freedom front, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), got a Ukraine resolution passed (alas, it did not contain assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland’s pungent commentary on the European Union). In a statement, House leadership said, “We call upon the Ukrainian government to exercise restraint and respect the democratic wishes of the people, and we call upon all sides to avoid violence. While we are encouraged by the partial repeal of recently enacted anti-democratic measures, we continue to urge the Government of Ukraine to uphold all democratic rights of Ukrainian citizens.”
In addition, the Republicans, in an echo of the Cold War, are establishing themselves as the tough-on-Moscow party. In the Ukraine statement, the leaders added, “We are also concerned about reports that Russia is behind recent intercepts and disclosures of American and European diplomatic communications, a clear violation of international norms of diplomacy aimed at dividing the United States and Europe, whose support for an independent and democratic Ukraine threatens Vladimir Putin’s cold war-era zero sum foreign policy.” (At least Congress did not ignore Ms. Nuland entirely.)
Likewise, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among those leading a resurgence on the GOP’s right flank of a tough conservative foreign policy line, made clear his views on Vladimir Putin recently on Hugh Hewitt’s radio talk show:
HH: When you see Putin, what do you think, Senator Cruz?
TC: Look, I think the direction he is taking Russia is very problematic. It’s problematic for Russia, it’s problematic for America, and for the world. He is systematically oppressing his people, but he is also taking advantage of President Obama’s foreign policy blunders to expand Russia influence, and I think he is bound and determined to do as much as he can to expand Russia’s sphere of influence and attempt to reassemble the old Soviet Union. You see the pressure they’re putting on Georgia, you see the pressure they’re putting on Ukraine. It’s dangerous, and unfortunately, President Obama is doing nothing effectively to counteract it.
HH: Now a young President Kennedy went to negotiate with Khrushchev in Vienna long ago and far away, and the measure that Khrushchev took of the young former Senator was not good, and we had the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you or any other young American leader sat down with Putin, I mean, this is a tough character. Do you think you could actually negotiate with him?
TC: Well, the only negotiations that a Putin or any other bully understands is a negotiation from strength, and that, unfortunately, is not something that the Obama administration has ever tried. In fact, they seem to systematically alienate our friends, abandon our friends and accommodate and appease our enemies. And so listen, you don’t have to like someone to negotiate with them, but the only negotiation that can be effective with Putin is a negotiation from strength.
HH: Now what I’m raising here, obviously, is the question [whether] there’s a Putin test out there for anyone who would be president . . . which is, can I imagine them sitting down across from Putin? Can you imagine yourself doing that and not being intimidated by a KGB colonel-turned-dictator?
TC: You know, there’s very little that should be intimidating about a thug. And I guess I view this from the perspective of being the son of someone who fled from oppression from Cuba. And what Putin is doing in Russia . . . bares similarities to what Castro has done to Cuba. . . . Human rights have gone out the window, and sadly, the United States has been all but silent speaking out against the human rights violations.
In fact, the formulation should not be limited to Putin (Cruz didn’t claim it was, but was asked about Putin specifically): Can you imagine this person defending the United States against the Iranian threat, standing up to Putin and otherwise defending U.S. interests and values around the world? Anyone who can’t clear that bar and/or who doesn’t understand the United States’ role in the world will have a mighty tough time getting through a GOP presidential primary.