Aid to Ukraine: a Marshall Plan 2.0 Skip to content

Aid to Ukraine: a Marshall Plan 2.0

It’s time to remind the Republicans of what they used to stand for.

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Scenes from the first Marshall Plan: A new tractor is delivered to a French farmer so he can begin farming again; copper and aluminum from the Marshall Plan enable this British company to start making electical parts; funds to Italy allow the Vespa plan to produce a new product, the Vespa scooter; workers in Greece clean up new housing getting ready to open; rebuilding the docks of Ostende in Belgium; and Marshall Plan dollars even flowed into Germany, enabling it to rebuild from the ashes (all photos from Wikimedia Commons)

The isolationist noise from the Right wing of our political spectrum is increasing.

Tucker Carlson, the favorite Fox News “America Firster,” is loudly lamenting the financial drain from our treasury caused by the billions we have given to Ukrainians fighting for their lives and country against the Russian bear.

Tucker points out that we could use that money to pay the medical debt of Americans or provide two years of free community college tuition. This would certainly be a worthy use of money. Too bad he wasn’t supportive of President Biden’s plan for free college tuition earlier.

Spending money overseas to support our friends and allies used to be a strong plank in the Republican platform, back in the days when they actually had a platform beyond creeping authoritarianism and “we are against anything Democrats want to do.”

I am tempted to think that Republicans are forgetting their own history. Back in 1948, they supported the Marshall Plan to rebuild the war-torn economies of western Europe after World War II. We spent $15 billion dollars in that effort 75 years ago, which in today’s dollars is more than three times what we have spent to support Ukraine in their life and death struggle to repel the Russians today.

Republicans were all for saving Europe from the danger posed by Soviet Communism back then because we were all convinced that it was in our national interest to do so. And it was, and it worked.

Now we are faced with a new crisis originating from Russia, and once again have friends and allies who need our protection, but the times and tone of our foreign policy have changed. In 1948 we lived in a polarized world; now we live in a polarized nation.

Perhaps we could reclaim the spirit that allowed and encouraged us — in our own self-interest — to oppose the forces of tyranny decades ago if we were to rename our aid for Ukraine today the Marshall Plan 2.0.

After all, the situation does offer similarities. In both cases, we have a major world power, the Soviet Union led by Russia then and the Russian Federation led by its new Tsar Putin now, trying to extend Russian power beyond its borders. History doesn’t repeat itself, but we do occasionally hear echoes of the past in the present.

Once again, we see a Russia, fearful of its own safety, seeking a buffer zone of territory on their western frontier. Once again, they show themselves willing to use force to gain such territory, either through securing friendly governments, as they have done in Belarus, or by outright annexation, as they are trying to do in Ukraine.

The truth is that the countries of Europe are probably under a more likely military threat today from Russia than they were in 1948. Then the war was cold; now it is a very hot conflict in Ukraine. And if the Russians succeed in their plans to make Ukraine part of Russia, why wouldn’t Moldova or the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania be their next target?

Back in 1948, President Truman insisted that the European Recovery Act be referred to as the Marshall Plan, after the man who served as his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. Truman recognized that Marshall, as the General who liberated Europe during the Second World War, was more popular than Truman.

Whatever our political problems at home, Europe once again needs our help. The Biden administration recognizes that, as does that segment of the Republican Party my wife calls the “real Republicans.”

Calling aid to Ukraine the new Marshall Plan would not change the rhetoric of Tucker Carlson or his Fox News groupies. But such a name change would more honestly reflect what is at stake in Ukraine during the coming year.

Words of our support for Ukraine brought both Republicans and Democrats to their feet during President Biden’s State of the Union address in February.

It would be a shame to let Tucker Carlson undermine this brief moment of unity between our two parties, especially when so much more is at stake than free college tuition.

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Ken Wolf

Ken Wolf spent 40 years teaching European and World History, punctuated by several administrative chores, at Murray State University, retiring in 2008. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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