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Ukraine: why it matters

Why you should care about Ukraine:

Say what you will about America’s involvement in various conflicts during the past one hundred years: The Spanish American War, The Philippine-American War, World War I, World II, Korea, Vietnam, and The Middle East (i.e. The War on Terror), what is taking place in Ukraine today should be among the gravest of concerns for the citizens of The United States of America and freedom at large. This is not a call by any means for military action, but for consideration of the events which are taking place in Ukraine and the significance of the outcome. It is a call for Americans to rally to the cause of a free and independent Ukraine.

During the past four months, protesters have assembled not only in the capital city of Kiev, but in all of the country’s twenty-four Oblasts (equivalent of a state) to take a stand and say “we will not go back to a life of servitude behind the iron curtain.” The people of Ukraine have demonstrated incredible resiliency for well over 1,000 years, enduring times of subjugation to Turks, Mongols, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Austria-Hapsburg and Russia. Historically, it was the Cossacks and their fortress in Zaporozhe who represented the highpoint of a libertarian existence in Ukraine. Today, the Maidan protestors who have been in the streets of Kiev since October represent a new liberation voice as they express their grievances that the Ukrainian government was ignoring the will of the people by obligating the country to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, many of them have joined their ancestors in giving their lives for the cause of freedom as government snipers began shooting protesters.

The Cold War which played out in the latter half of the twentieth century has largely been forgotten by many today, but it was a cosmic struggle between “East” and “West.” This was no small struggle and no small investment. Even today, some twenty plus years after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the US Department of Defense infrastructure and many of its operational playbooks give evidence to the severity of the threat represented by the Soviet Union.

The Cold War was waged between Communism and the governments of the West epitomized in a democracy by the people. It pitted the communist’s desire to advance authoritarianism, censorship, death and socialism against free speech, the pursuit of “life, liberty and happiness” and capitalistic free market to guarantee a prosperity never seen by the people of earth in all of their human history.

There are thousands of people living in the United States today whose stories include a grandfather or grandmother who emigrated from Ukraine in the early 1900’s prior to the 1917 revolution in Russia that ushered in The Evil Empire. Thousands more escaped during the years of The Soviet Union and when that government collapsed thousands more sought a new life in The United States of America.

While there are millions of Russians and Ukrainians living in the USA today, the majority of these people groups still remain in their homelands. The histories of the Russia and Ukraine are intricately woven together and while it might be tempting to lump the two peoples together, they remain distinct culturally, ethnically, linguistically and politically.

However, as Ukraine itself is divided between eastern Ukraine which is highly Russian speaking and western Ukraine which is highly Ukrainian speaking, the distinctions can be hard to delineate. In an overly simplistic way of thinking, there is a line of division running from north to south from Kiev to Odessa in the south with those on the western side favoring a Ukrainian identity and those on the eastern side a Russian identity. Kiev and the western side align more closely to continental Europe while the eastern side which includes Crimea is closer to motherland Russia. Yet, there is no such clean division and at the same time there are clear distinctions.

Ukrainians have fought, rather unsuccessfully, for their freedom and independence for well over a thousand years. The turmoil is not new to them, but perhaps today, more than at any other time in their history, the future outcome in Ukraine is a watershed moment in regards to its significance in the history of Western civilization.
Ukraine was once a place of scorn to ex-Soviet leader Joseph Stalin who inflicted a forced famine on the country in a genocidal Holodomor (extinction by starvation.) The event was so horrific that it caused the once liberal leaning English journalist Malcom Muggeridge (see "Winter in Moscow") to devout the rest of his life to exposing the evils of socialistic communism. While the events of the Holodomor have since been documented, they were originally committed behind the iron current and few witnessed them or had even heard about them until decades later. Sadly, as stated by the title of David Satter’s 2012 book, “It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past.” Throughout its history, the Soviet Union demonstrated that it placed a low view on the value of human life. The empire of the Soviet Union represented a reign of terror over many of the satellite countries, especially in Ukraine.

Today, the events unfolding in Ukraine are front and center (due to increasing media coverage and live feeds from Ukraine via the internet). While there are other atrocities actively unfolding in the world (North Korea and Syria) the world has a more access to openly watch the events in Kiev, Ukraine as they unfold; events that have now become terribly bloody resulting in deaths that are highly under-reported. The protest and ensuing violence can be directly tied to the political positioning of Russian President Putin who has exerted extraordinary persuasion over Ukrainian President Yanukovych and his party causing them to a deaf ear to fifty eight percent of the country which favors membership into the European Union sometime within the next twenty years (Viktor Yanukovych: Losing Europe...and Losing the Ukrainian Population?)

In "Fascism, Russia and Ukraine", writer Timothy Snyder presents a most excellent analysis of the participants on the ground in Ukraine, both protestors and government officials. If you read nothing else about the Ukrainian conflict, read this piece by Timothy Snyder.

Yanukovych was expected to sign an association agreement with the EU community before the end of November last year. However, as financial pressures related to Ukraine’s national debt began to hold greater sway over the Ukrainian President he finally yielded to the strong arm tactics of the Russian President and accepted a large bailout package on the provisions that Ukraine not sign the EU agreement. As stated by Ilan Berman in The American Spectator December 2012, "Vladimir Putin is betting big in Ukraine. For weeks now, Russia's wily president has worked feverishly behind the scenes to derail the former Soviet satellites tenuous pro-Western trajectory." Many in Ukraine feel they would be better served to join the European Union than be hood-winked back into a recreation of the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine matters. In the past thousand years, and especially the last century, the Ukrainian people have paid heavily with the spilled blood of countless millions of their countrymen fighting for freedom. Today, they are paying again. Why does this matter and why should you care?

Have the people of the United States become so corrupt in their hearts that they only think about pleasure and the base things of life as seen in the twisted existence of people like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian? Perhaps, during the same time that 25% of the American population has forgotten that the earth rotates around the sun (Time Magazine), they have also forgotten that the freedoms which give them the ability to practice such an empty and vain lifestyle were hard fought for and obtained in another struggle for freedom from tyranny only two hundred and thirty years ago.

Have the people of the United States forgotten about their Cold War struggle? Do they not recognize what a free and independent Ukraine means? In Ukraine today, there are such American icons as McDonalds, Coca Cola and Pringles. Less than ten years ago, in July of 2005, Ukraine amended its visa policy for Americans and western Europeans traveling to the county. Instead of having to obtain a visa from the Ukrainian Consulate in Washington prior to departure, visitors can now show up in the airport and have their passports stamped in manner similar to visiting England France or Germany. Ukrainian airport officials have even dropped the old Soviet style harassment/welcome as Americans enter through passport control.

Is it possible, in a metaphoric sense,that Western society and the champions of freedom have driven the football 98 yards down-field only to come up short and turn the ball over on downs? If Ukraine is allowed to fall once again to Russia, it will strike a reverberating blow to the ideals of Western democracy. Perhaps it is too late and such fate is inevitable. But if Ukraine falls, it means that the United States has not been leading for some-time now and its influence for good in the world is waning. Perhaps the liberal politicians now in control have practiced their own culture of death for so long now that they too place a low value on human life and the freedoms endowed upon each by their Creator. If Ukraine falls to Russia in any manner (in total, or via partitioning), then the United States has failed in the one area which it has a moral imperative to do so – namely to promote democracy and ensure that freedom triumphs over authoritarian tyranny.

Video of police/military sniper picking off citizen protestors was posted earlier today at The Guardian - see it here (warning graphic)

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