Abraham Lincoln described America’s democracy as a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” In other words, the supreme power is vested in its citizens and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. The society and culture are characterized by a formal equality of rights and privileges.
Democracies are never perfect because they reflect the imperfect human beings who created them. But, for all their shortcomings, the US and Canada are vibrant democracies.
Russia is not, and never has been, a democracy because its government never derived its authority from the people through free and fair elections. It is a government created by the old KGB crowd and the corrupt oligarchs who created the perfect kleptocracy.
That’s why Vladimir Putin feels so threatened by the Maidan Revolution and its aftermath. The Maidan represents the second democratic uprising in a decade on Russia’s border. Its pointed rejoinder to former President Victor Yanukovich empowers “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Putin is not threatened by his enemies; they have either been cowed into submission, imprisoned or murdered. The Lilliputian opposition to his autocratic rule lacks sufficient money and “administrative resources” — a Russian euphemism for the ability to manipulate the outcome of an election.
Putin is threatened by a prosperous, stable and democratic state in Ukraine. Threatened because the hunger for freedom is contagious. Threatened because if Ukraine succeeds its Russian neighbors will discover the difference and want the same for themselves. And that’s why Putin’s disinformation machine works overtime to paint Ukrainians as fascists and raging anti-Semites. It’s powerful propaganda; it just isn’t true.
Ukraine has emerged as the most religiously diverse and tolerant of the former Soviet Republics, as the rabbis of Ukraine demonstrated in their response to the charges of Putin’s minions during the Maidan. We have also seen it powerfully illustrated through the “Spiritual Council” of Save Ukraine Now, encompassing Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims, that gives strategic direction and insight to SUN’s activities in the country. In April, they traveled together to the United States to help launch Ukraine Survival, our national campaign to alleviate the suffering of refugees in eastern Ukraine.
This new reality in Ukraine, paradoxically fostered by Putin’s belligerence, will not be reversed because the Ukrainians are determined to be free themselves. In so doing, they may become “the last, best hope” for the Russian people.
— Gary Kellner, President, Save Ukraine Now