Protecting Ukraine, Protecting America

Protecting Ukraine, Protecting America

A number of far-right and far-left commentators have come into agreement on the issue of Ukraine. Both are wrong.

On the left, commentators bemoan the use of taxpayer funds to purchase military equipment. They worry about America “imposing” its values on other nations.  On the right, an allergy to any new federal spending, combines with a (rather justified) concern that politicians may get some personal kickbacks from all those dollars.  They also frequently state that we shouldn’t worry about protecting another nation’s borders until we secure our own.

Those concerns, however good or bad, ignore the danger to the rest of the world a Putin victory in Ukraine would produce.

It is more than obvious that a Russian victory in the current invasion would encourage aggressors across the planet. China’s plans to take over Taiwan and smaller potential conflicts across the planet would all be greenlighted if Moscow succeeds.

The authoritative United States Naval Institute noted that Russian President Vladmir Putin is “an international criminal, and we need to be saying this as forcefully as the United States condemned the leader of Serbia as responsible for the bloody Balkan wars during the 1990s…”

Vladimir Putin, who was a career KGB agent, has made no secret of his nostalgia for the Soviet Empire. He is not shy about his desire to reconstitute, in some form, the now defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Ukraine is merely the first step in that process. During the Obama Administration, Putin noted the weakness of that White House, and unblushingly invaded the Crimea portion of Ukraine.    During that same presidency, China invaded the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, a move condemned by the World Court at the Hague.  Obama didn’t even issue a diplomatic protest. Putin waited until another weak White House, led by Obama’s Vice President, was in place until he attempted to complete his conquest of Ukraine.

Forgotten in all this is the obligation to protect Ukrainian sovereignty that was made when that nation voluntarily surrendered the nuclear weapons it possessed following the Soviet Union’s collapse.  As noted in published sources,  “After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine held about one third of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world at the time, as well as significant means of its design and production. 130 UR-100N intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with six warheads each, 46 RT-23 Molodets ICBMs with ten warheads apiece, as well as 33 heavy bombers, totaling approximately 1,700 warheads remained on Ukrainian territory. On December 5, 1994 the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Britain, and the United States signed a memorandum to provide Ukraine with security assurances in connection with its accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.”

Critics of America’s assistance to Ukraine conveniently forget that we have a treaty obligation to live up to.

Zelenskyy made an impassioned plea for continued American assistance during his December visit to Washington, and noted that more than just Ukraine is at stake. “Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine. We are fighting for Europe and the world and our lives in the name of the future. That is why today the American people are helping not just Ukraine, but Europe and the world to keep the planet alive. To keep justice in history.”

The failure of the world to stop aggression in the 1930’s is quoted so often that it sounds like a cliché, but it is a very real concern.  Putin already has designs on Kazakhstan, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and other nations. It would be far better to stop him now before a far wider and even more deadly conflict takes place.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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