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If Republicans abandon Ukraine, don’t expect Europe to follow America on China.

Beijing poses a unique global challenge. The threat is not ideological like the Soviet Union was, but economic. Yet not all of America’s European partners share Washington’s threat perception. Far from it. Europe’s growing trade with China aside, last year, France’s President Emmanuel Macron blocked NATO from opening a liaison office in Japan.

Put simply, Europeans are less worried about what is often perceived as the hypothetical war of tomorrow against China. Rather, Europe is more concerned that Russia will win the current war in Ukraine, the conflict will spiral out of control beyond its backyard and America will not be there to help it.

Putin has forever altered Europe’s security environment and the threat perception of Russia since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Finland has joined NATO. Sweden is following in its footsteps. The threat Russia poses to Eastern Europe, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea is real and immediate.

Whether the Republican Party’s isolationist wing likes it or not, Washington has been at the heart of European security for more than a century. 

In World War I, the U.S. tilted the balance of power in favor of the Allies to defeat the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.

In World War II, Washington kept London and Moscow in the fight against Nazi Germany. It also did the same for China against Japan. Then, the U.S. stormed the beaches of Normandy alongside Great Britain and Canada to liberate Western Europe before defeating Imperial Japan in the Pacific. 

After the war, America accounted for more than 50 percent of global GDP. Washington financed Europe’s reconstruction, established NATO, oversaw European integration and defended the Alliance against Soviet imperialism and tyranny. The Communist empire eventually imploded, and Republicans won the Cold War for the free world.

When Yugoslavia dissolved and the United Nations failed to avert a genocide in Bosnia, Washington led the charge against a revanchist Serbia in Kosovo. When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it was America — not Europe — that rallied the 50-plus-member Ramstein coalition in support of Kyiv. 

For more than a century, Washington has answered the call of leadership that falls squarely on its shoulders, albeit reluctantly at times. No other state can fill the "Arsenal of Democracy’s" shoes. To say that the specter of a second Trump presidency hangs over Europe’s neck like a sword of Damocles is an understatement.

To be clear: Full-scale state-on-state warfare has returned to Europe for the first time since World War II. While President Joe Biden is arguably the U.S. leader most amenable to Washington’s global leadership role since the Cold War ended, America, the backbone of European security, has been out of action for all of 2024.

The bulk of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine is spent domestically to bolster America’s defense industrial base and create well-paying manufacturing jobs for Americans. This aid has reached a standstill. Unfortunately, Europe does not have the industrial capacity to cover the shortfall. 

On Jan 7, Swedish Minister of Civil Defense Carl-Oskar Bohlin declared that “war could come to Sweden.” The following day, Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces Micael Bydén also insisted that everyone in Sweden must “prepare themselves mentally” for war.     

On Jan 19, Germany’s Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius warned that Europe must prepare to fight a war against Russia within five to eight years from now. Likewise, on Jan 24, General Sir Patrick Sanders, head of the British Army, stated that the United Kingdom must double the size of its army and prepare for a mobilization effort not seen since 1945.

These fears are not a secret. Nor are they exaggerated. Former President Donald Trump has openly said that America will “never” help Europe if and when Putin attacks a NATO member state. 

We have watched this storm unfold before our eyes. Even in slow motion. Now, World War III is closer than ever. Instead of doing their utmost to prevent it, congressional Republicans continue reneging on America’s global leadership role and playing petty political games from the comfort of Washington. 

Yes, the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is a crisis of the highest order. The apprehension of more than 2.4 million migrants crossing the border in 2023 is both unacceptable and unsustainable. The Biden administration is willing to reach a deal. On Jan 25, however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that congressional Republicans would forgo a compromise with the Democrats. 

According to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), former President Trump lobbied to kill the deal. In this way, he alleged, the Republican Party could “save the problem,” continue blaming President Biden for the border crisis throughout the 2024 election campaign and take credit for resolving the issue if and when former President Trump wins.

America is a great nation. Behaving in this manner is simply un-American. 

NATO’s formation and the emergence of the European Union would’ve been impossible without Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership. Not only did America’s commitment institutionalize peace and make the most violent and war-prone continent on Earth more stable, but Europe’s stability also made the rest of the world more prosperous and secure.

The Russian Federation and Communist China, like Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union before them, have always wanted the same thing: America out of their way. With every passing day, it seems former President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans intend to give them exactly that. 

With America by Europe’s side, everything is possible. Without each other, success seems unachievable.

Originally published by The Hill on February 2, 2024.

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