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Why Ukraine Matters to America

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

For nearly fifty years, from the end of World War II until 1992 millions of people in Eastern Europe endured the oppression and brutality of Communism, courtesy of the former Soviet Union.


For decades Soviet Russia maintained control over Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, Romania, the Baltic and Balkan countries, and all of the ‘Stans’ with an iron fist. Tolerating no dissent in those countries, and responding brutally if it occurred. Ask the Hungarians in 1956 and the Czechs in 1968.

In 1956 the Soviet Union sent troops and tanks to crush the Hungarian popular uprising, killing and wounding thousands of Hungarians. Roughly twelve years later when Czechoslovakia’s ‘Prague Spring’ offered reforms and a liberalization of government policies and control, the Warsaw Pact under the direction of the Soviet Union once again asserted their control. And once again crushed a freedom movement taking place in Czechoslovakia, killing and wounding hundreds of Czechs.

The United States and the West vocally protested these actions, but did little else. NATO basically stood idly by and watched both the Hungarian and the Czech freedom movements collapse under the might of Soviet Russia.

In 1992 the brutal communist regime in the Soviet Union finally collapsed. The Russian people, as well as the former Soviet Bloc countries had simply had enough. Following the Soviet collapse the former Eastern European countries who had lived under Soviet control for decades chose freedom and the West over maintaining a strategic relationship with the ‘new’ Russia.

In the years since the fall of the Soviet Union most of those former Soviet Satellites have strengthened their ties with the west, including a number of them joining NATO as member nations.


Ukraine, which shares a border with Russia also began to assert its independence from their former masters in Moscow, and reached out more and more to the West. Openly discussing the possibility of joining the European Union and even NATO membership.

To understand what is going on right now with the Russian threats to invade Ukraine one must understand Vladimir Putin. Putin’s former association with the KGB, the brutal Soviet secret police and intelligence agency is well known. But above all Putin considers himself a Russian Patriot. He was severely stung by the collapse of the Soviet Union and what he perceived as gloating on the part of American politicians and others in the West.  Putin set it as his primary goal to get pay-back for what he viewed as the insults that were levied against Mother Russia.

I recall at the time commenting that we needed to tone it down, and even extend a welcoming hand to Russia and help them modernize and become a valued ally.  Helping Russia transition from communism to freedom and a market based economy wasn’t just in Russia’s best interest, it was also in our best interest.

But we didn’t. We bragged about how we defeated the Soviet Union without firing a single shot. Ignoring the fact that tens of thousands of Americans died fighting in proxy wars in other parts of the world against the Soviets.

So why does it matter to Americans what happens in Ukraine? It matters to me because as Americans we have always tried to portray ourselves as the beacon of freedom in the world. We’ve been willing to go to war to protect and preserve our own liberties, and have fought to spread the message of freedom around the planet.


Ukraine was listening. Do we turn our backs on Ukraine, just as we did Czechoslovakia and Hungary in years past?  Do we stand up for freedom, whenever and wherever it tries to break away and rise up from oppression?  Or do we simply throw away the decades and lives we invested in defeating the Soviet Union, only to see it rise once again?

While I am certainly not advocating sending our young men and women in the military off to fight in another foreign war, I believe it’s important that we show Ukraine, the rest of the world, and especially Vladimir Putin that as a nation America is still strong.  Still determined to promote freedom.  And still willing to stand up to Russian aggression.

There should be no limit to the support we give Ukraine with intelligence and military equipment.  Whatever it takes short of boots on the ground to help them defend themselves against Russia, and to make Vladimir Putin feel the pain of any invasion.

Why?  Because Ukraine matters. If for no other reason than they stand alone against Russia, and they shouldn’t be standing alone.

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