As the anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine approaches, some say its important to support the Ukrainian people in their struggle for freedom against autocratic aggression. While providing the necessary resources and arms is essential, the most crucial contribution the U.S. can make is to advocate for freedom itself.
During the Cold War, Ronald Reagan emphasized the symbolic value of freedom. He believed that America’s leadership in the world depended not only on military and economic power, but also on its ability to demonstrate how freedom creates prosperity and happiness. This year, we have seen protests against autocratic regimes in China, Russia, and Iran, which demonstrate that the yearning for freedom is universal.
However, the Biden administration has missed an opportunity to support citizens’ aspirations for freedom in these countries, which actively challenge American interests. Reagan’s most important lesson was that “the ultimate determinant in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs or rockets, but a test of wills and ideas-a trial of spiritual resolve.” By showing support for citizens’ struggles against tyrannical leaders, the US can advance its moral leadership in the face of challenges from China, Russia, and Iran.
Congress has the power to support Ukraine and investigate and highlight the human rights abuses of these countries. It can also impose sanctions on institutions and companies that support these abuses and invite dissidents to testify about the crimes of autocratic leaders. By emulating Reagan and encouraging citizens in China, Russia, and Iran to speak out against their leaders, the new Congress can establish a strong Freedom Agenda for the U.S. in the coming decade.
This approach would remind the world that the US is not the “evil empire” that some have claimed, and that tyranny is still present in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran.
Read the full essay from Mike Pompeo and Arthur Herman at the Wall Street Journal – Opinion.