Indiana, PA - Indiana County

AS I SEE IT: Weak foreign policy diminishing us

by U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, 9th Congressional District on March 18, 2014 10:20 AM

As the world’s only superpower, the United States of America plays a unique and essential role in the international community. International security and cooperation is led by our efforts, and our allies around the world look to us for guidance and leadership in foreign affairs. Last Tuesday, in response to the developing situation in the Ukraine, the House passed a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Crimea as a flagrant breach of Ukrainian sovereignty.

Unfortunately, the president has not heeded the call for bold leadership on the world stage. Instead, he has retreated to a “lead from behind” foreign policy that is leaving the world in a vacuum with dangerous neighbors threatening international stability. The situation in Ukraine is just the latest example of how weakened our resolve appears — from President Obama’s “reset button” approach to dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin to our failure to engage on Syria despite the “red line” drawn by the president and a sham Iranian nuclear deal — we’ve sent the wrong signals to Russia and the world. We’ve backed away from our friends abroad — plans for an antiballistic missile shield for Poland and the Czech Republic were scrapped by Obama in 2009. The U.S. was noticeably disengaged in the Arab Spring uprisings.

We need only look back a few years for proof of why standing up to Russia is essential. In 2008, the last time the U.S. was perceived as weak and war-weary, with an end-of-term President Bush, Russia invaded the neighboring Republic of Georgia — a country with a democratically elected government with hopes of joining NATO. It destabilized the region, displaced tens of thousands of people, and renewed tensions between Russia and the Western world. While Russia was ultimately unsuccessful in their attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government, to this day Russian troops still occupy parts of Georgia.

The U.S. must take the lead in standing against actions that threaten the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine. We have to show demonstrable support for the people and the future of this country, and for all those that stand up against oppression.

We cannot allow Russia’s stranglehold on energy resources to be used as a political bargaining chip. Russia’s ability to shut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, as they did back in 2006 and 2009 to pressure Ukraine to back away from attempts at European integration, is a serious threat with major financial and humanitarian impacts.

However, the United States now has a major advantage in this situation — an abundance of natural gas, in large part thanks to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale. We can reduce the world’s dependence on energy from hostile nations. Increasing our natural gas exports will lead to greater security for the U.S. and its allies, and will lead to more jobs here at home. The President should approve the Keystone XL pipeline and speed up the permitting and building of LNG export facilities.

We must take a bolder approach to our foreign and energy policy. We must show the world that the United States is serious in its commitment to maintaining international order. We are a beacon of hope to so many that are less fortunate than us — people that face oppression by their own governments, yet dream of a better life, that stand up and fight for their right to have a voice. Our allies look to us for support and protection from tyranny and terrorism.

While some may question why it is America’s role and America’s responsibility, as Tony Blair said in a special address to a joint session of Congress in 2003, “the only answer is, because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes Indiana County.

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