Pat Buchanan

With Vladimir Putin having bloodlessly annexed Crimea and hinting that his army might cross the border to protect the Russians of East Ukraine, Washington is abuzz with talk of dispatching U.S. troops to Eastern Europe.

But unless we have lost our minds, we are not going to fight Russia over territory no president ever regarded as vital to us.

Indeed, should Putin annex Eastern and Southern Ukraine all the way to Odessa, he would simply be restoring to Russian rule what had belonged to her from Washington's inaugural in 1789 to George H. W. Bush's inaugural in 1989.

This is not an argument for ignoring Russia's conduct.

But it is an argument for assessing what is vital and what is not, what threatens us and what does not, and what is the real deterrent to any re-establishment of the Soviet Empire.

Before we start sending troops back to Europe, as we did 65 years ago under Harry Truman, let us ask ourselves: Was it really the U.S. Army, which never crossed the Elbe or engaged in battle with the Red Army, that brought down the Soviet Empire and dissolved the Soviet Union?

No. What liberated the nations of Eastern Europe and the USSR was the determined will of these peoples to be free to decide their own destinies and create, or re-create, nations based on their own history, language, culture and ethnic identity?

Nationalism brought down the empire. And Mikhail Gorbachev let these nations go because Russia was weary of maintaining a coercive empire and because Russia, too, wanted to be part of the free world.

While Putin may want the Russians of Ukraine and Belarus back inside a Greater Russia, does anyone think he wants Rumanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs or Slovaks back under Moscow's rule?

Putin knows that his own popularity, near 80 percent, is due directly to his being seen as a nationalist willing to stand up to the Americans and their claim to be sole architects of the New World Order.

And it is nationalism, not a NATO full of freeloaders, that is America's great ally in this post-Cold War world.

It was nationalism that liberated the captive nations, broke apart the Soviet Union, split Czechoslovakia in two and divided Yugoslavia into seven countries.

Nationalism drove the Chechens to try to break from Moscow, the Abkhazians and South Ossetians to secede from Georgia, and the Crimeans to say good-bye to Kiev. And as nationalism tore apart the Soviet Empire and USSR, nationalism will prevent their recreation.

Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .
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