Sen. Bernie Sanders: 'Hypocritical' for the U.S. to Insist That We Do Not Accept 'Spheres of Influence'

By Susan Jones | February 11, 2022 | 7:05am EST
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (Photo by GRAEME JENNINGS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (Photo by GRAEME JENNINGS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he's "extremely concerned" to hear "the bellicose rhetoric" coming from Washington as the U.S. and Russia tangle over Ukraine.

He said it's "hypocritical" of the United States "to insist that we as a nation do not accept the principles of spheres of influence."

“Does anyone really believe that the United States would not have something to say if, for example, Mexico or Cuba or any country in Central or Latin America were to form a military alliance with a U.S. adversary?” Sanders asked in a speech on the Senate floor.

“Do you think members of Congress would stand up and say, well, you know, Mexico is an independent country and they have the right to do anything they want. I doubt that very much.”

Sanders said "it's important" to "consider the perspectives of our adversaries...if we are going to formulate good policy." And he noted that from Russia's perspective, the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO -- an alliance formed in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union -- is one of the precipitating factors of the current crisis.

Sanders noted that ever since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine became independent, "Russian leaders made clear their concerns about the prospect of former Soviet states becoming part of NATO and positioning hostile military forces along Russia's border." Sanders quoted various U.S. officials who recognized those concerns as legitimate at the time.

"These concerns were not just invented yesterday by Putin out of thin air," Sanders said. "Clearly invasion by Russia is not an answer; neither is intransigence by NATO."

Vladimir Putin may be a liar and a demagogue, but it is hypocritical for the United States to insist that we as a nation do not accept the principles of spheres of influence.

For the last 200 years, our country has operated under the Monroe Doctrine, embracing the principle that as the dominant power in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has the right, according to the United States, to intervene against any country that might threaten our alleged interests. That's United States policy.

And under this doctrine, the United States has undermined and overthrown at least a dozen countries throughout Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean. As many might recall, in 1962, we came to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Now why was that? Why did we almost come to the brink of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union? Well, we did that in response to the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from our shore.

And the Kennedy administration saw that as an unacceptable threat to national security. We said, it is unacceptable for a hostile country to have a significant military presence 90 miles away from our shore.

And let us be clear -- the Monroe Doctrine is not ancient history. As recently as 2018, Donald Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the Monroe Doctrine, quote, "as relevant today as the day it was written," end quote. In 2019, former top National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote, quote, "The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well."

To put it simply, even if Russia was not ruled by a corrupt oligarchic authoritarian leader like Vladimir Putin, Russia, like the United States, would still have an interest in the security policies of its neighbors. And I want people to think about this:

Does anyone really believe that the United States would not have something to say if, for example, Mexico or Cuba or any country in Central or Latin America were to form a military alliance with a U.S. adversary? Do you think members of Congress would stand up and say, well, you know, Mexico is an independent country and they have the right to do anything they want. I doubt that very much.

Sanders said countries should be free to make their own foreign policy choices, but he said those choices must consider the costs and benefits. "The fact is, the U.S. and Ukraine entering into a deeper security relationship is likely to have some very serious costs for both countries."

Sanders expressed support for the Biden administration's ongoing diplomatic efforts to assure Ukrainian independence and sovereignty and to avoid "the horrors that a war in the region would cause."

He advocated a "mutually agreeable resolution" that is acceptable to all sides: "That approach is not weakness. It is not appeasement. Bringing people together to resolve conflict without war is strength, and it is the right thing to do," Sanders said.

Interestingly, Sanders’ views from the left seem to align with some of those on the right.

In a Feb. 1 commentary, conservative author and pundit Patrick J. Buchanan likewise questioned the wisdom of the Biden administration refusing to rule out NATO membership for Ukraine:

Buchanan questioned, "Why then does Secretary of State Antony Blinken continue to insist there is an 'open door' for Ukraine to NATO membership — when that would require us to do what U.S. vital interests dictate we not do: fight a war with Russia for Ukraine?"

Blinken has often stated this as U.S. policy: "From our perspective, NATO's door is open and remains open, and that is our commitment."

What Blinken is saying is this: While America will not fight for Ukraine today, America remains open to Ukraine's accession to NATO, in which event we would have to fight for Ukraine tomorrow, were it attacked by Russia.

What the U.S. needs to do is to say with clarity that while Ukraine is free to apply to NATO, NATO is free to veto that application, and the enlargement of NATO beyond its present eastern frontiers is over, done.

Also See:
Buchanan Commentary: NATO -- Strategic Asset or Liability?

 

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