Category Archives: Ukraine violence

Defensive Arms?

As Russian troops and tanks pour into eastern Ukraine and Russian rockets rain down on civilians in marketplaces and in their homes, our Western allies in Europe are pushing for another truce, even though Vladimir Putin hasn’t kept one yet. Meanwhile, in the United States, President Obama’s cabinet and staff deliberate on how best to stabilize the situation. One proposal is to provide “defensive arms” to Ukraine’s military.

What exactly are “defensive arms?”

Common definitions include items such as anti-tank missiles, battlefield radar and reconnaissance drones. But these weapons can easily be used for offense as well as defense. And the artificial barrier creates an additional impediment for Ukraine’s troops.

Why is the US government continuing to limit our support for Ukraine as if the Ukrainians had done something wrong?

The Ukrainians were attacked, and an internationally recognized border was overrun by invading Russian forces. As former Director of the National Security Council, Zbigniew Brzezinski, so eloquently said, “The Ukrainians can’t fight the Russians with pancakes.”

Some of those who argue against arming Ukraine maintain that the high technology of defensive weapons could be captured on the battlefield and reverse engineered by Russian troops. They believe that this represents the worst of all possible worlds.

It is not. Weapons are captured by enemies in every conflict. The worst outcome is that 43 million Ukrainians will lose their freedom and be absorbed into Vladimir Putin’s neo-Soviet empire. But there is an even worse outcome: the failure to resolutely stand up to Russian aggression will be interpreted by Putin and his supporters as an invitation to reprise the destruction of Ukraine in the Baltic States and Poland.

We believe the United States should provide the Ukrainian army with whatever will stop or roll back the Russian advance. That said, we should focus on shortages of basic battlefield weaponry first. Most Ukrainian soldiers do not have proper winter clothing, courtesy of Putin’s friends who ran Ukraine before the Euromaidan revolution.

The butcher’s bill of dead, wounded, maimed and displaced will only grow until something is done. Organizations like Save Ukraine Now will be needed more than ever as new areas of the country are coming under Russian fire, and the refugee crisis is exploding.

It is time to stop making artificial distinctions about defensive and offensive arms, and help the side that has done nothing wrong other than wanting a better future than the one a dictator envisions for them.

I am a Ukrainian!

On a gray, rainy morning, two Islamic radicals wearing ski masks stormed into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris and mercilessly gunned down 12 people. The world joined the French in mourning, and more than 1.5 million people marched in solidarity the following Sunday, including scores of world leaders.

It was a powerful demonstration of liberty and bravery.

A few days later, a crowded mini-bus stopped at a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine, miles from the battle front. As the mini-bus sat there, dozens of Grad rockets rained down on it. Shrapnel tore through the bus and through bodies, killing ten people instantly — one, a 14-year-old girl. Two more died later of wounds.

Yet only their families and close friends mourned for them.

This gruesome incident fueled no international outrage, no marches for the murdered innocents, no banner headlines. One would think these victims didn’t matter, not in the West, and definitely not in Moscow, where they are pawns in Vladimir Putin’s cynical game for restoring the glory of the Soviet Union.

In Paris, thousands of people carried signs declaring, “Je suis Charlie,” to condemn the violence. When I saw them, I remembered a similar declaration, half a century ago, as President John F. Kennedy stood before hundreds of thousands of Berliners and declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

That expression of solidarity energized a generation of Berliners whose freedom was threatened by Putin’s Soviet forbearers, whose sons and daughters, brothers and sisters were gunned down by Soviet guards as they fled East Berlin seeking freedom. President Kennedy’s act of solidarity told beleaguered Berliners that someone cared, that the United States of America was standing with them. It gave them hope until one day, 26 years later, they tore down that wall.

Ukraine needs that same encouragement today, and as people of conscience, compassion and concern, we must stand with them. Is it not time for us to say, “I am a Ukrainian?”