From the Right: The Crisis in Ukraine

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From the Right

By Don Schmitz

The war for Ukraine rages on into the second year, a war which our analysts thought would see the fall of Kiev in the first week. It’s time for us to reflect on our policies and what is in the best interest of the U.S. Ukraine is a democracy, its courageous defenders awe-inspiring.

Russia is the naked aggressor, grabbing land and resources, demonstrably guilty of war crimes, including the torture and murder of civilians. We are clearly supporting the right side. Russia’s war against Ukraine actually started in 2014 by invading and annexing the Crimean Peninsula. American response was tepid, President Obama would only send non-lethal aid like blankets. As fighting continued in the occupied Donbas, President Trump sent weapons including Javelin anti-tank missiles. Now, with the full-scale invasion, President Biden opened up the floodgates with $47 billion of sophisticated weapons systems. Essentially, the two largest nuclear superpowers are in a proxy war on Russia’s border, and that should alarm you.

The history and demographics are complicated. Kiev was the original capital of Russia, but then again, it used to be Polish, Lithuanian, Tartar, Mongolian, and Viking. Russia justified annexing Crimea as it is 58 percent ethnic Russians, ignoring that they signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum respecting Ukraine’s borders in exchange for them giving the nuclear weapons to Russia that they inherited when the U.S.S.R. collapsed. Hitler justified annexing Sudetenland and other areas because of ethnic German majorities. World wars start this way, and the similarities are striking. Some validly argue that if the West had stood up to Hitler early on, global war might have been averted, and that we should stand up against Russia. I concur, but Hitler didn’t have nuclear weapons. The risk of miscalculation is unimaginable.

Our government must make decisions based on what is best for America, so what is the end game here? Ukraine vows to fight without conceding an inch of land, including the Crimea. I would do the same if America was invaded, but will Russia accept complete defeat?

The U.S. gave tacit approval to the illegal annexation of the Crimea almost 10 years ago, shamefully emboldening Russia. They must be shocked now by the tenacity of the Ukrainian defenders, and by the united cohesiveness of the U.S. and most of the world supporting them. The boldness of the Biden foreign policy is very risky, but has already manifested broad successes for American foreign policy. Russia’s dream of empire expansion back to the borders of the Soviet Union appears unrealistic. The superiority of American weaponry against the best of Russia is now clear.

Russia’s military is now weakened, diminishing their
ability to threaten NATO allies. Importantly, China has observed that the free democracies are at a minimum willing to arm allies, impose sanctions and suffer economic pain to oppose tyrannical expansions. China also sees that a committed, well-armed people can bleed a modern army horribly. The 24 million people of Taiwan have noticed too.

Forty-three thousand Russian soldiers have died with 150,000 wounded. Their economy is hurt, their prestige damaged, and their autocratic ruler could be deposed. The Russian bear is wounded, but still very dangerous. The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report this week that Ukraine’s nuclear power plants have been shelled, including Zaporizhzhia, the largest facility in Europe. The nightmare of Ukraine’s Chernobyl meltdown could be repeated, with Russia blaming the Ukrainians. Remember that Stalin starved to death 8 million Ukrainians in the 1930s. Or perhaps a desperate Putin might resort to tactical nuclear weapons. President Biden said that would be a “red line.” President Obama said that Syria using chemical weapons on their people would be a red line, but did nothing, which Putin observed. Does Putin believe the U.S. would go to war against Russia over that and risk Armageddon? Do you, and if so, is that in America’s interest?

It is essential to counter Russian armed expansion in Europe, it is morally correct to honor the territorial boundaries of sovereign countries, and it’s our deeply engrained national ethos to defend democracies from tyrants. President Biden says we will support Ukraine “as long as it takes.” We used to say that about the democratic government of Afghanistan, yet we grew weary after years of funding the fight. It is not for us to tell Ukraine on what terms they accept cessation of hostilities, but we are paying the tab, and providing the weapon systems for the fight. Ukrainian courage won’t carry the day alone, and it is time for us to try and broker a peace deal. The political courage of the Western allies, and the ferocious defense of their country by the Ukrainians, has opened the door to negotiations from a position of strength. It’s time to vigorously do so.