Foreign affairs related to Russia and China have become hot topics in Utah. Russia’s war against Ukraine has divided Republicans nationally and provoked different levels of concern within Utah’s congressional delegation. Meanwhile, a recent Associated Press story about Utah’s ties to China has raised eyebrows. We’re not experts on these matters, but that never slows us down.

The far right and the far left are strangely united in opposing American assistance to Ukraine. When these extremes agree, should we be skeptical or take seriously their opinions?

Pignanelli: “Isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.” — Ronald Reagan

The amazing legacy about isolationism is the stunning consistency of the policy — it is always wrong. Leaders of the movement over the centuries possessed an incredible ability to ignore the weight of history.

Former President Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans are splitting from others inside the GOP tent who support aid to Ukraine. President Joseph Biden supports arming Ukraine but bungles his messaging, thereby aiding opponents. It is both frustrating and frightening that leading national politicians do not understand history and what is at stake.

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America is not the world’s policeman to insert itself into never-ending scrapes. But on occasion, political realities demand engagement. Unfortunately, prior isolationism caused the nation to commit grave mistakes that cost lives and treasure. When our enemies sense weakness in military preparedness and presidents, they always strike in some fashion. This is especially acute when a president believes a personal relationship with a tyrant will prevent ill will.

Global foes are watching the action in Ukraine. The U.S. is more than just aiding a small democracy, we are sending a message of strength. History documents unequivocally if we falter, a bloodier and expensive conflict awaits us.

Isolationists enjoy the benefit of emotion, but realists possess facts. Our future depends on the latter prevailing.

Webb: I can’t understand the opposition to arming and supporting Ukraine as it fights off the Russian invasion and suffers Russia’s war crime atrocities. I believe the isolationists are damaging America’s interests and making a bigger, broader war in Europe more likely. They’re also emboldening China as it threatens Taiwan.

Vladimir Putin clearly wants to reunite the old Soviet Union by any means necessary, including invasion and subjugation. Ukraine is the first domino. If he conquers Ukraine and sees weakness and timidity in the U.S. and our NATO allies, we really could end up in a hot shooting war because we are fully committed to defend NATO countries as though America itself were being attacked.

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It makes great sense to help Ukraine stop Russia’s imperialistic schemes cold and prevent a broader war. Providing potent weapons and funding to end the war quickly is an excellent investment that will save money and resources in the long term. It makes no sense to allow the war to drag out. Get Ukraine the weaponry it needs and get it over with. Obviously, we should not put boots on the ground, and I’m not advocating an “open checkbook.”

Helping Ukraine thwart a Russian takeover also sends a clear message to China, making it less likely to invade Taiwan.

Sen. Mitt Romney is strongly committed to supporting Ukraine. The rest of the delegation should be as well.

The Associated Press story outlined many examples of Utah/China connections. Were some Utah leaders naïve to be friendly with the communist nation?

Pignanelli: Utahns are decent and do not hate the people of another country just because our governments have differences. Implications that Utah officials are traitorous is ridiculous.

Webb: Let’s put this in a little perspective. It wasn’t long ago that friendly U.S./China relations were considered highly desirable. China was viewed as an enormous market for U.S. goods and services. Businesses were encouraged to develop relationships.

The conventional wisdom was that the more interaction we had with China, culturally and commercially, the more likely China would liberalize and become more like Western countries.

That didn’t happen, of course. China is now America’s biggest adversary, both militarily and commercially.

I believe Utah leaders’ interaction with China was done with the best of intentions. In retrospect, it does look rather naïve. But we didn’t know how truly malign China’s leadership was until we saw the crackdown on Hong Kong, the threatening of Taiwan and the extent of Uyghur persecution.

Will these foreign affairs matters become big issues and make a difference in the 2024 elections?

Pignanelli: The isolationist faction inside GOP ranks is increasing while conservative cable news commentators are agitating against American involvement in Ukraine. This emotion is percolating among many delegates which could drive election rhetoric.

Yet, I was heartened by legislators sporting the Ukraine flag on their lapels during the session. Most Republicans possess a clearheaded understanding of global politics that could be tapped by officials supporting Ukraine. Delegates may force incumbents into uncomfortable positions unless they craft a compelling message as to why this is important and not just an isolated tribal fight.

Webb: This is extremely important. Personally, I won’t vote for isolationist candidates, including those who don’t want to help Ukraine.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semiretired small farmer and political consultant. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.