I am proud of Ukrainians. I think that they are doing a great deal right in a very difficult situation. I disagree with the newspaper articles I read daily which attempt to point out one shortcoming or another. Certainly shortcomings exist, but it is a complex situation in which the right answers are hard to know.
Ukraine is no match militarily for Russia. It has a new government, in place only for a few months. That government, particularly its military and intelligence services, are riddled with spies who were salted their during the pro-Russian administration of Victor Yanukovych, which ended only a few months ago. They are underequipped, undertrained and underbudgeted. Their task is an extremely difficult one.
Russia, a country three times its size whose natural resources afford it a much larger budget, has been working hard to create turmoil in Ukraine. Russia has five centuries of experience destabilizing and gobbling up its neighbors, adding them to its empire. The catalog of neighboring countries that have successfully resisted Russia’s advances is relatively short. The last was Finland, which held off Stalin in 1939. It came at great cost in land and men, but they did it. Afghanistan, with outside help, survived until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia has a stable government with long experience in propaganda. Their lies are being spread as gospel by a new set of friends, this time so-called conservatives. The Russians have co-opted the nationalist movements in Europe and the libertarians in the United States. It is as frightening as when the Communists were the darlings of the left in those places. Somehow starry eyed idealists never seem to learn. This time the illusion is that Putin is a good Christian supporter of traditional values. Though that image is hard to reconcile with murder, mistresses and pervasive corruption, it must satisfy the conservatives’ innate desire to believe in something.
One must agree that there is much not to like in modern Europe and the United States. The welfare state is coming to the end of its rope. The budget deficits are unsustainable, third-world immigration is irreversible, and the social decay is pervasive. All these things being true do not mean that Russia offers a better alternative. Whatever problems the West has, to embrace Putin is to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. It may be true that Obama, the NSA and the bureaucrats in the United States are smothering America’s freedoms. Those freedoms still look pretty good upon examining the despotism Putin has to offer.
The most impressive thing about Ukraine’s resistance has been the country’s quiet resolve. Yanukovych tried hard to provoke the Ukrainian people to violence. He brought his thugs, the titushki, in from the country in order to start fights. He sent in his riot police, the Berkut, to provoke the demonstrators in Maidan. Although a few did respond with violence, the vast majority remained peaceful. That peaceful majority yielded 100 martyrs when Yanukovych lost his cool and had his Berkut open fire with live ammunition. Those martyrs died not in vain. Yanukovych was unable to break the will of the demonstrators, unable to goad them into actions that might have justified, in the eyes of the world, his suppressing them. Instead, Yanukovych chose to flee to Russia. His puppet master Putin, giving him shelter and a place to stash his pelf, hid him away as an embarrassment and took over.
It is now Putin’s turn to be goading Ukraine. He is shipping arms to the “separatists,” provocateurs that he himself sent. He is staffing them with Russian military and KGB in leadership positions. He is paying Chechnyan and Cossack mercenaries to do nastiest of the dirty work in the uprising. And, Russia is firing at the Ukrainians across the Russian border. Ukraine has turned the other cheek in this case also. They are not returning fire.
Though it costs a few lives, Ukraine is not giving the Russians the casus belli and they are looking for. They are not affording the Russians any excuse to invade. Ukraine is making it more and more clear to the world that this situation is exactly what they claim, a case of unprovoked Russian aggression. By their patience, the Ukrainians are slowly winning the world’s admiration, and more important, the grudging conviction that Ukraine must be defended against Russian aggression. As British Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home said, “The Russians move when they see an opportunity. They always have. Like a knife, they push ahead when they hit butter, and back away when they hit steel. Where they run into unity and strength, relations tend to improve. Russian policy seeks a maximum of confusion for a minimum of commitment.” The West is awakening the reality that they have been as soft as butter, and the threat is unbounded. The threat is not just to Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltics, but eventually to them as well.
For their courage and wisdom I salute the Ukrainian people. This is a difficult battle, an uncertain battle. Given all of the handicaps facing the country, I think the Ukrainian people are doing a marvelous job in fighting it. We of the West owe them our thanks and our support. Slava Ukraina. Glory to Ukraine.