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What a difference 37 years makes

Letter to the Editor by Max Stites

Daily Sentinel, February 23, 2024 Edition

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan speaking in West Berlin, called on the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” referring to the Berlin Wall, which had divided West and East Berlin since 1961. Fast forward to Feb. 10, 2024 where Donald Trump, at a rally in Conway, South Carolina, recounted as president he told a NATO member “You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent? No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them (referring to Russia) to do whatever the hell they want…” For those readers who may not be aware, NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was established in 1949 to protect its members against the Soviet Union. Of course, the Soviet Union no longer exists but the authoritarian leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has every intention of re-establishing the territory of the old Soviet Union. We need to look no further than the war in Ukraine. So far our NATO allies have sent over $100 billion dollars in military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and we have provided about $75 billion. NATO has been one of the most successful collective security agreements in our history. Article 5 of the treaty basically states that an attack on one of the signatories is an attack on all. Article 5 has only been used one time so far and that was after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Western allies of the United States incurred significant costs in both dollars and lives. Five of our NATO allies sent troops to the war in Afghanistan — the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Canada.

To have the leading presidential candidate for the Republican Party make such a reckless and callous statement flies in the face of previous Republican and Democratic presidents who realized the dangers of authoritarianism and the essential part NATO plays in protecting us and our allies. We must look at history for guidance. The placation and encouragement given to authoritarians always leads to disaster. Remember, Reagan’s call for the Berlin Wall to come down may have had a degree of histrionics, but two years later it came down.

Respectfully, MAX STITES

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