FreedomPosted: February 22, 2023 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Russia, Ukraine Leave a comment
This week on the first anniversary of the Russian assault on Ukraine, President Joe Biden marked the occasion in two important ways. In an act of secrecy worthy of a spy thriller, he visited the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to reiterate U.S. and NATO support of the Ukrainians in their fight to retain their democracy against a ruthless dictator. The next day, President Biden gave a major speech in Warsaw Poland celebrating the stand that democracies around the world are taking against Russia and vowing that their support will continue until Ukrainian democracy is secure.
One year ago, I am sure that Russian President Vladimir Putin thought that he would be standing in Mariinsky Palace, the ceremonial home of the Ukrainian president, rather than the President of the United States. Many others, whether or not they admit it now, thought the same thing one year ago. There was no way that Ukraine could stand up to the mighty Russian bear. And yet, they did, and they have, and they continue to do so. It must have seemed like the ultimate insult to Mr. Putin that President Biden strode the streets of Kyiv in broad daylight, even as air raid sirens blared during his stroll with Ukrainian President Zelensky. Neither president flinched.
President Biden’s visit lasted five hours after flying all night from Washington to Germany to Poland where he boarded a train for the ten hour trip to Kyiv. It was another ten hour train trip back to Poland after his visit. Not too bad considering his critics think that Mr. Biden is “too old” to continue as president. He seemed invigorated and on top of his game as he proudly stood by Mr. Zelensky’s side and declared “Ukraine stands! Democracy stands!” During his visit, Mr. Biden promised an additional 500 million dollars in military aid to Ukraine. The visit was symbolic, of course, but in many areas of diplomacy and international affairs, showing up is important. It indicates resolve and commitment. It has real meaning. It puts strength behind words that could have been spoken in the White House but that mean so much more when said in the streets of Kyiv.
Several historians pointed out that this is the first time an incumbent American president has been in a war zone and vulnerable to enemy fire since President Abraham Lincoln visited Fort Stevens on the outskirts of Washington D.C. on 12 July 1864. There, during the second day of an attack by Confederate soldiers, President Lincoln stood on a parapet of the fort to see what was happening and came under fire from enemy snipers. Thankfully, he was uninjured. While not trying to make President Biden’s visit comparable to President Lincoln’s, as he did not come under direct fire, it was still a remarkable act of courage personally and as a president. While other presidents have visited war zones before in Viet Nam, Afghanistan and elsewhere, they were visiting U.S troops in areas under U.S. control under very strict security protocols — often in the dark of night. Mr. Biden had no such protection from American forces on the ground which is why the impact of his visit was so powerful and meaningful to the Ukrainians and to our NATO allies and friends.
The following day, Mr. Biden gave a powerful speech in Warsaw. It was perhaps the best foreign policy speech of his presidency and was delivered forcefully and convincingly. In it, he vowed that Russia will “never” win in Ukraine and reiterated that the U.S. and NATO will stand stronger than ever in their support for Ukraine. He also directly refuted a claim made by Mr. Putin in a speech earlier in the day where Mr. Putin claimed that Russia was not attacking Ukraine but merely defending itself from an attack by NATO forces. All lies, as most of the world knows. As Mr. Biden said in his speech, “This war was never a necessity. It’s a tragedy. President Putin chose this war. Every day the war continues is his choice.” He also further emphasized the remarks made by Vice President Kamala Harris a few days before that the Russians are conducting “crimes against humanity without shame or compunction.” This is a statement that has meaning in the long run as it triggers international laws and treaties that will attempt to hold Mr. Putin and his flunkies accountable for the purposeful death and destruction the Russians are inflicting on innocent civilians.
Mr. Biden put into words what is at stake. Simply put, it is freedom. Not just for Ukraine but for the world. As he said in his speech:
There is no sweeter word than freedom. There is no nobler goal than freedom. There is no higher aspiration than freedom. Americans know that, and you know it. And all that we do now must be done so our children and grandchildren will know it as well.
The enemy of the tyrant and the hope of the brave and the truth of the ages.
This is where the far right MAGA crowd in the U.S. House of Representatives misses the mark. They are very critical of our policy towards Ukraine and our willingness to support them in their fight against Russia. Some are open admirers of Mr. Putin and all that he stands for. I will resist slamming their ignorant statements, for in the end, most Americans understand that if we allow Russia to subjugate Ukraine, it will not end there. For the first time since World War II, a country, Russia, is openly saying that the old world order where nations do not subjugate other nations by unprovoked force, no longer applies. If we do not stop Mr. Putin in Ukraine, then the Baltic States, Poland, and other eastern European nations will be in line for Russian aggression. Mr. Putin has for years reiterated his belief, first stated in 2005, that the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.” Worse than World War I. Worse than World War II. He intends to restore that empire. It is his vision quest.
If he is not stopped in Ukraine, then nowhere is safe. Make no mistake, under President Biden if Russia attacks a NATO country, it is war. It is better to stop him in Ukraine than to allow that to happen. It is incredible that some right wing MAGA advocates do not know or understand history or the threat imposed by Russia.
There is another player on the world stage watching all of this. China. Be assured that President Xi Jinping is following events in Europe closely as he contemplates his own ambitions towards Taiwan. A year ago he would be among those that thought Ukraine had little chance of holding off the Russians and he likely assumed that NATO would not band together to support them. While China is willing to take the long view, he must now assess whether the Taiwanese will fight as relentlessly as the Ukrainians. He must also assess whether the rest of the world will come to Taiwan’s aid as they have in Ukraine. He must also assess whether his own military, in which no one currently in his Armed Forces has experienced full scale combat, is up to the test against the U.S. and other NATO countries and friends that have become combat hardened in over twenty years of wars in Asia.
It is not just about Ukraine. It is about fighting tyranny and autocrats the world over. Will democracies be up to the task? One year ago many autocrats around the world assessed the U.S. and NATO as weak and unwilling to stand up for their principles. Probably, that is a legacy from the previous administration. Now those autocrats know the answer.
Let’s make no mistake, however. The war in Ukraine will continue for a long time. Perhaps years. While the U.S. and NATO have been crucial to Ukraine’s success, the aid given so far mostly just keeps Ukraine from losing, rather than winning. The West must increase the lethality and range of the weapons and systems supplied to Ukraine. Without expanding our support, the war will continue to drag on and on. In the end, do not forget that Russia has a larger population, economy and military than Ukraine. A war of attrition is not good for Ukraine and that is how the war is slowly evolving. In some respects, it resembles the trench warfare days of World War I. If the West truly believes that this is the critical stand that democracies must take to prevent the spread of dictatorships, then it is worth giving the Ukrainians the weapons they need, including offensive capabilities.
As the well worn phrase explains, “freedom isn’t free.”