By Eric Brakey
Below is a transcript of a speech by Maine Republican Senator, Eric Brakey who very eloquently expresses why he will not vote for a Maine senate joint resolution on supporting the US role in the war in Ukraine. He gave this floor speech against Ukraine War Resolution on March 9, 2023.
Madam President, I rise to oppose this resolution in the strongest terms possible, as a piece of war propaganda that I will not have my name or my vote attached to.
This resolution on the War in Ukraine is riddled with half-truths, historical omissions, and dangerous conclusions that urge our nation down the path to global nuclear war the likes of which no one alive or dead on this Earth has ever seen — and one that humanity will never see twice.
Rather than urging peace talks to bring an end to this border dispute halfway across the world, this resolution presents a simplistic narrative — with no grounding in the realities of foreign policy or the history of Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War — in order to justify a continued blank check (now over $100 billion, much unaccounted for) from the pockets of U.S. taxpayers to the Ukrainian government, in an undeclared proxy war with no exit strategy and in which continued escalation endangers the entire world.
Passing this resolution, adding the voice of the Maine Senate to this fool’s errand, would be grossly irresponsible.
When I was a young man, I readily admit that I was fooled by war propaganda. To quote the President who fooled me, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… you ain’t going to fool me twice.” After learning the lessons of disastrous Middle East wars, I resolved to follow the advice of another President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II. In his farewell address, he told America to “Beware the military industrial complex.” It is also worth remembering the words of Major General Smedley Butler — a decorated Marine of World War I — that “war is a racket.”
So whenever the bipartisan war machine — the uniparty in Washington — urges our country into foreign wars, it is the responsibility of all citizens (especially the lawmakers in bodies like these) to maintain cool heads and ask basic questions. So let’s start with a basic question about one of the claims in this resolution — seemingly parroting a repeated line in the corporate press, funded with advertising dollars from weapons manufacturers — that the Russian invasion in Ukraine was “unprovoked.”
Madam President, there are many justifiable adjectives to describe this war. Bloody. Vicious. Murderous. Tyrannical. Evil. Illegal. I would accept any of these, but I will not sign my name to a lie — and the claim this invasion was “unprovoked” can only be uttered sincerely if history began the day Russian troops crossed the border.
In truth, there has been a long line of provocations, many made by Washington officials (supposedly accountable to the American people), bringing us to this crisis point.
To be clear, provocation does not justify an action. A man may violently stab another who shoved him. That stabbing would be wrong, but it would also be false to say it was “unprovoked.” This word is used to absolve Washington war hawks of the numerous acts of incompetence and malevolence in the decades of build up to this conflict since the fall of the Berlin Wall. If we do not acknowledge the actions of our own foreign policy elites in our own federal government that have contributed to this war, then we have no hope in prescribing a proper course of action to bring about a peaceful resolution.
Throughout the Cold War, the number one American foreign policy goal with regards to the Soviet Union was to keep nuclear weapons at bay. When the Cold War ended and the Soviet government dissolved, the nuclear arsenals remained. So too did the American interest in avoiding conflict that could bring about the end of the world as we know it. That’s why there were agreements, in those early days of the new era, that Russia would not contest the reunification of Germany and its admittance into NATO. In exchange, American officials committed — in writing — that NATO would not extend “one inch east” beyond the German border.
That agreement was promptly violated in the 1990s under President Clinton — against the explicit warnings of American foreign policy experts who cautioned Russia would fear these violations as nakedly hostile attempts to surround them militarily. Every American president since, Republican and Democrat alike, has continued this manifest destiny policy of eastward NATO expansion toward the Russian border, disregarding the consistent warnings from both U.S. foreign policy realists and repeated red lines from the Russians that this is viewed as an existential threat to their national security.
Some say, “NATO is a defensive alliance, so what does Russia have to worry about?” I would ask them to tell that to Muammar Qaddafi, the former leader of Libya. His government invaded no other nation, and yet he was sodomized to death in the streets after a NATO-led regime change war in his country. Is that what a “defensive” military alliance does? (And for what purpose? Certainly no humanitarian outcome? The people of Libya now find themselves subject to open air slave markets — today, in the 21st century).
There is no excuse for invading a sovereign country.
This is the principle readily proclaimed in this present foreign crisis, and one with which I heartily agree. But it is odd to hear this principle now often repeated in Washington by the very warhawks I’ve watched — since I was twelve years old — lying to the American people with invented pretexts to justify the invasion and occupation of sovereign Middle East countries for decades on end, paid for with the blood of our soldiers and the treasure of our taxpayers.
And I wonder, Madam President, how we would feel as Americans if our roles were reversed.
For a moment, I ask this chamber to imagine a mirror reality — one in which the Russians won the Cold War and the Warsaw Pact was inducting Canada into its membership, putting their military on our border, just north of Aroostook County. Would we shrug our shoulders and rest assured that the Warsaw Pact is only a “defensive” military alliance?
Would we tell ourselves there was nothing to worry about after watching the Soviet Union — as the world’s last empire and super power left standing — spend the last two decades on regime change wars across the Middle East with death tolls nearing one million?
As their military alliance snaked its way through Central America toward our southern border (with the KGB running intelligence operations to manipulate election outcomes and overthrow uncooperative leaders), would we not demand our leaders do something to protect our country from the threat encircling us?
And if our economy and military were a shadow of their former glory, and all we had left was a nuclear arsenal to tell Russia not to mess with us, how far would America be pushed before twitchy fingers were on the button?
In truth, we don’t have to imagine too hard how our country would respond to a Russian military threat at our border. We know how America did respond during the “Cuban Missile Crisis.”
President Kennedy considered Russian missiles off our coast a provocation, and he took action to secure our country — just as any national leader responsible to their people would when an antagonistic military force is approaching their border. Only fools would put a country with a nuclear arsenal in that position — cornered, fearful, and desperate — and then reject all offers to negotiate. Thankfully, Kennedy used diplomacy to diffuse the danger — a skill our leaders today in Washington seem unwilling or unable to exercise.
Both presidents Kennedy and Reagan — adamant cold warriors both who no one would call lovers of Russia — always maintained open communication with the leaders of Russia to avoid escalation into nuclear conflict. Instead, our present day leaders refuse diplomacy and push the war forward to the last Ukrainian standing — not for any benefit to the people of Ukraine, but to bleed the Russians dry just as in Afghanistan through the 1980s. This posture isn’t for the Ukrainian people, this isn’t for the American people — this is for the empire that now stands in the place of our once proud republic on a mountain of corpses to maintain global hegemony.
That’s why, in 2014, then Vice President, Joe Biden, oversaw the overthrow of the democratically-elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. His crime was not signing a trade deal with the European Union. In actuality, he wanted to sign two trade deals – with both Russia and the West — but when the E.U. agreement suddenly prohibited any economic agreement with Russia, Yanukovych says that he felt like a bride who showed up for a wedding, only to discover a never before discussed prenuptial agreement and he just wasn’t in the mood anymore. For that, he was regime changed — and if you doubt Washington, D.C. had anything to do with it, I have a bridge to sell you in Libya.
Thanks to leaked phone calls, we know for a fact that the current Under Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, personally handpicked the leaders of the new government to replace Yanukovych. You can hear the phone call in her own voice as she tells an E.U. official who is in and who is out in this new Ukrainian regime to make the whole thing stick. Is this what “democracy” looks like?
After the coup, the new government — urged on by local neonazi groups, like the Azov Battalion — banned the speaking of Russian and launched an ethnic cleansing campaign in the eastern regions of Ukraine. Russia responded by annexing the Crimean Peninsula to maintain control of the Sevastopol Naval Base — Russia’s only warm water port with access to the Black Sea (which is also a “Russian Alamo,” after many died defending it against German invasion in World War II). At the same time, he rejected petitions from ethnically Russian people in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine — now at the center of the war — to secede and join Russia.
Over the next eight years, as a civil war raged in these separatist regions, our own government funneled weapons into the conflict. In 2016, I represented Maine on the national platform committee of my political party, along with our colleague, Senator Guerin of Penobscot County. At the time, I was shocked to read calls for sending these weapons into this civil war. That’s why I opposed that language and fought to strike it from the document, warning that these policies could escalate into a nuclear conflict. Seven years later, here we are, living under the shadow of it all.
These are only some of the most significant provocations — NATO expansion, deposing a democratically-elected government, and funneling weapons into a civil war on Russia’s border. I haven’t even mentioned the torn-up nuclear treaties and the years of domestic anti-Russian propaganda pushed onto the American people through an unholy alliance between U.S. intelligence agencies and the corporate press.
Do we all remember the report that Vladamir Putin was putting bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan? That story was as false as the reports of Iraqi solders rippling Quaiti babies from incubators in the lead up to Desert Storm. It was completely debunked. This “disinformation” was planted in the media by “anonymous intelligence officials” in the lead up to a major U.S. election, but if you ever read a retraction, you were lucky to find it on page 36 after months of front page coverage.
That’s how the war propaganda machine works. Lie. Rinse. Repeat. Never apologize.
And let me pre-empt the accusations that I know are coming, whether in this chamber or outside of it, by stating clearly that Vladamir Putin, like so many governmental leaders across the world, is a tyrant. As a lover of human liberty, he could be strung up like Saddam Hussein and I wouldn’t shed a tear. There’s plenty of blood on his hands and I am sure that on the day he meets his maker, he will tremble in fear as his many sins are laid bare.
So it is not for the sake of any despot that I oppose this resolution, but for love of our country and the wisdom of early leaders, like George Washington and John Quincy Adams, who warned our country against entangling alliances, being drawn into European power struggles, and going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.
And for the love of all people caught up in this war — for the conscripted and enslaved men of Ukraine and Russia pitted against each other to the death for the benefit of oligarchs; for the many dead and displaced civilians; for those starving across the world from the consequences of war in the Ukrainian breadbasket; for those in Europe, America, and Maine freezing this winter due to natural gas shortages; and for everyone alive today and generations yet unborn who face the very real threat of nuclear annihilation — we must demand immediate diplomacy to end to this war.
Yet we see no diplomacy from Washington. In the rattling of their sabers for war with Russia, the uniparty claims it is love of democracy and hatred of tyrants that drives them. So where are those affections as they’ve partner with Saudi princes to genocide the people of Yemen. What makes the Yemeni people less worthy of our concern? Is their skin the wrong color? Are their lives of less value because they live in the wrong part of the world? Or is Washington simply so addicted to Saudi oil and the petrodollar that props up our paper currency that the deaths of a quarter million people is worth the cost?
Madam President, it seems George Orwell predicted the state we find ourselves in. If you listen to the talking heads on the television screens, it would seem we’ve always been at war with Eurasia.
But if you go searching down the memory hole for scraps of what was and possibilities of what could have been, you will find stories about the days when George W. Bush and Vladamir Putin toured Texas high schools together, after the Russian President’s call of support following the 9/11 twin tower attacks. You will find stories about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hitting a “reset button” on U.S. – Russian relations for a new era of peace.
So when did all this change? It certainly is not just that Vladimir Putin is a tyrant, as our leaders are fond of many tyrants around the world.
The public pivot seems to have taken place when Russia stood opposed to the invasions of Iraq, Libya, and Syria — all grossly unconstitutional wars by our own American standards and waged for no clear American purpose beyond the profits of that institution Eisenhower warned us of. When Russia blocked the dreams of regime change in Syria, this appears to have been the last straw — and we’ve seen nothing but provocation and heard only drum beats for war ever since.
Madame President, the stakes on this matter are higher than any other war in my admittedly short life of thirty-four years. Unlike Iraq, these nuclear weapons are not the imagined fantasies of war profiteers. The arsenals are real. Continued escalation is toying with nuclear fire, which could set the world ablaze. Today, we are fortunate to be alive and to be able to look back at Iraq and admit mistakes were made. Twenty years from now, will we be so able under the clouds of nuclear winter?
Even should the nukes stay put — and God help us, I hope so — nothing else good can be had from this war. The Ukrainian people die while peace talks should be taking place. America’s strategic position in the world is weakened as China and Russia have formed an alliance against us. Our fair weather friends in Saudi Arabia entertain breaking the petrodollar, threatening the U.S. dollar’s status as the global reserve currency and unleashing hyperinflation on our country. Rising economic powers, including India, refuse to fall in line with U.S. sanctions as it turns out that, after decades of invading foreign countries in the Middle East, few nations outside Europe recognize America’s moral authority anymore on the question of invading foreign countries.
Madam President, if this resolution was truly in the interest of peace, I will tell you what it would say. It would not call for continued conditionless spending and racking up trillions of dollars more in debt on the American people in order to draw out a war that endangers the whole world. This resolution would demand that Secretary of State Antony Blinken go to Geneva and sit down for peace talks with both Russian and Ukrainian leaders to resolve this border dispute, broker a peace, end the war, end the famine, end the energy crisis, and take the very real threat of nuclear annihilation off the table.
That is what this body should be calling for: peace, not war!
I invite every member of this body to join me in voting for peace by rejecting this resolution.
Eric Brakey is a Maine Republican Senator.