In February of 1990 U.S. leaders journeyed to Moscow to make an offer to the Soviets. Then Secretary of State James Baker suggested that in exchange for a unified Germany, the U.S. would make “iron-clad guarantees” that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) would not expand “one inch Eastward.” Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe was starting to end, and the West was promising not to fill that vacuum with their influence. A few days later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to begin reunification talks. Despite the agreement, within only a few more years, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and others were ushered into the NATO alliance.
A few decades prior, the world was on the edge of its seat as a tense 13-day military and political standoff ensued between the Kennedy administration and the similarly nuclear-armed Soviet Union under President Nikita Khrushchev. The U.S. provided nuclear weapons to Turkey, and the Soviets reacted by bringing their own to Cuba, just 90 miles south of Key West, Florida. President Kennedy announced the presence of the missiles to the American public, commanded a naval blockade around Cuba and made it clear that the U.S. was prepared to use military force. However, tensions were broken when President Kennedy made an agreement with Khrushchev that the Soviets would remove the nuclear missiles from Cuba and in exchange the U.S. would not attack. In secret, however, Kennedy also agreed to remove the nuclear missiles from Turkey.
Fast forward now to November 2013. Widespread protests erupted in Ukraine in response to President Yanukovych’s failure to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union. This continued for several months and on February 20, 2014, the Maidan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of Dignity, took place in Ukraine. Deadly clashes between protestors and riot police further escalated tensions for over a month. The ultimate result was the ousting of President Yanukovych and the instatement of an interim government ahead of special elections. Russia considered the overthrow of Yanukovych to be an illegal coup and did not recognize the interim government. On March 1, Russian parliament approved a request by President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops to Ukraine.
For nearly eight years now, conflict has persisted along the borders of sovereign Ukraine and Russian-occupied territory just beyond. While the world has mostly ignored or forgotten about this conflict up until recently, we find ourselves now at DEFCON’s door as NATO is now putting more and more pressure on Russia to step back from its efforts to further annex Ukraine. A fundamental question must be asked here — are we willing to risk World War III over this conflict in Eastern Europe?
“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.” That was declared by George Washington in his farewell address at the end of a bloody revolution for independence. In his inaugural pledge, Thomas Jefferson opined clearly on foreign policy saying, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”
These were the words of our nation’s founders, who expounded the radical idea of a non-interventionist foreign policy. We must ask ourselves where NATO fits into this foreboding wisdom. Since the mid-1990s, NATO has continued to expand its western influence east. Under the banner of promoting democracy, the U.S. backs pro-American and pro-Western politicians in newly democratic states with their previous regimes toppled. Influence expands closer and closer to Russia’s doorstep, antagonizing a nation with no commitment to peace.
The Monroe Doctrine, delivered to Congress by President James Monroe in 1823, stressed the need for foreign powers not to meddle in the affairs of the Western hemisphere. The wisdom of non-interventionism precedes us, yet the growing precipitation of expanding alliances puts us at risk. Let us assume that Russia once again placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, and China did the same in Mexico, and meanwhile, they were courting Canada into an alliance with them. Would this not be perceived as a threat?
The United States’ involvement in NATO puts us in a compromising position; one which is compounded further by the fact that Congress no longer authorizes war and that our military is controlled by a small facet of unelected bureaucrats and what President Eisenhower named the Military-Industrial Complex. It is time for cooler heads to prevail and for Libertarians, and all wishing to avoid worldwide conflict, to call on the U.S. to cut ties with NATO and to end all other entangling alliances. Such entanglements are more cause for war than for peace, and the tit for tat relationships promote escalation and retaliation. Americans ought to abide by the wisdom of those who came before us, who learned the hard-fought lessons of war, rather than trust those who will never do the fighting to make the right decisions.
If humankind continues into the future without heeding the lessons of the past, we are doomed to repeat the grave errors of our predecessors, now with much higher stakes.
Libertarian Platform, 3.3 International Affairs
American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world. Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.
Our position is clear: non-interventionism is the answer to the Ukrainian crisis, and all future crises, because when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.