A view of the town of Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. Credit: Yevhen Titov / AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Ever heard of the “Horseshoe Theory?”

It posits that the far left and the far right of the political spectrum circle back toward each other and demonstrate remarkable similarities. It’s overly simplistic and isn’t great as a workable model, but sometimes it is incredibly apt.

Take a look at Ukraine.

Last weekend, a huge protest erupted in Germany. The thousands assembled were protesting the military support provided to Ukraine by Berlin.  

It was orchestrated by Sahra Wagenknecht, a leading member of the German political party known as “The Left.” Wagenknecht was a Marxist-Leninist in the early days after the fall of the Berlin Wall and advocates for dissolution of NATO and a German-Russian security alliance.

In short, she’s not exactly someone you would expect to make common cause with the traditional American right.  

The party of Reagan was unyielding when standing against then-Soviet aggression. It was typified by the president’s famous off-the record quip: “we begin bombing in five minutes.

Yet, there is a significant divide in the modern GOP when it comes to support for Ukraine. A substantial minority of Republicans seem to be aligning with the position espoused by Wagenknecht, the German pseudo-Communist, and “The Left.”

The reasons and rationale these disparate groups use are very different, but they lead to the same substantive place: support for Vladimir Putin’s objectives.  

The Russo-Ukrainian war may be a seminal geopolitical moment. The mediocrity of Russia’s conventional military forces has been exposed. Western weapons systems, leveraged by Ukranian personnel, have proven their superiority in battle.  

But Russia’s information operations are second-to-none. They have worked for years to sway public opinion in nations they consider adversaries. It is paying dividends for them, helping lead communists and Republicans to make common cause. You best believe China is watching and taking notes.

At the start of the Cold War, there were plenty of disputes between Republicans and Democrats. But Congress lived by an America First credo, where “politics stopped at the water’s edge.” This led to the creation of NATO.

That was enabled by a degree of mutual respect in spite of strong disagreements. We’ve got a long way to go, but hopefully there is a way to bring that back.

There are plenty on the right who need to get past an ethos of “owning libs.” You can think people on the left are wrong headed with mistaken ideas on how to improve our economy or education system. That is fine; it does not mean they are forces of evil plotting destruction.

That shoe wears well on the other foot. This week highlighted where the left’s cries of “racism” against folks on the right were plainly wrong. At the start of the pandemic, suggestions from some Republicans that the virus may have originated in a Chinese laboratory were described as “good old-fashioned racism” and a “fringe theory.”  

Now the Biden Administration – through both the Department of Energy and the FBI – says that the “lab leak” may be a very real, credible – even likely – theory of the virus’ origin. While there remains significant uncertainty around that conclusion based on a variety of factors, the vindication does not make weathering the slings and arrows of insult and vitriol any easier for those who were attacked.

If politics are to truly stop at the water’s edge and American foreign policy is going to transcend partisan affiliation, we need to rebuild the mutual trust within our country. Much easier said than done. But Ukraine was nearly written off as a lost cause a year ago and they are still here.  

They have proven that, with a strong enough will, we can achieve just about anything.  

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Michael Cianchette, Opinion columnist

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.