April 17, 2024

Doing Putin's bidding

In Other Words

Those who grew up during the years following WWII learned hard lessons about Russian dictators. Although they were allies against Hitler, the United States and the Soviet Union were never friends. It’s disturbing some Americans today will do Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s bidding.

Donald Trump declared recently his support for NATO would be conditional - if NATO members don’t pay their share, they wouldn’t have his protection and he would “encourage Russia to do whatever the hell it wants.” Meanwhile, MAGA members of Congress are committed to pulling the rug out from under NATO’s ally, Ukraine.

Americans should know the history of Russian dictators, beginning with Joseph Stalin’s occupation of Eastern European countries after the war. In contrast, the U.S. aided and never occupied European countries during their recovery.

Germany was partitioned by the Allies into East and West Germany. East Germany found itself trapped behind the Soviet Union’s iron curtain, and for 28 years, it endured authoritarian rule, a stagnant economy and few individual freedoms. The most significant symbol of the iron curtain was the real wall that literally divided the city of Berlin, with no passage allowed between. Thinking back, it seems incredible that members of German families were barred from interacting with one another while living within the same city.

When Stalin was gone, the Nikita Khrushev era began. Although he wasn’t in office long, his grip on freedom was ironclad. Americans learned early on to fear Communism. When the Soviet Union developed atomic weapons, fears intensified. The threat became real when Khrushev began shipping ballistic missiles to Cuba, just off the shores of Florida. Tensions went through the roof in a faceoff between Khrushev and President John Kennedy, until Russia backed down and removed their weapons.

It was during President Ronald Reagan’s administration the Soviet Union’s power began to decline. Reagan communicated well with Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was far more westernized and moderate than previous Russian leaders. Reagan pushed Gorbachev to allow independence and in an appearance in Berlin, gave a famous, dramatic speech, shouting, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Eastern countries such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, Poland, Georgia and others declared independence. Some had to fight to make it happen, and, eventually, the Soviet Union was no more. All that was left of the powerful empire ruled by dictators in Moscow, was Russia. This explains Putin’s aggressiveness today. He is still consumed with anger at the demise of the Soviet Union. It explains why Russia now occupies 20 percent of Georgia after invading in 2008, and in 2014 a portion of Ukraine. It’s the reason he invaded Ukraine in 2022. Putin wants his Soviet Union back.

Today, unbelievably, there are Americans who want to cozy up to Putin. Despite the brutal invasion of a free democratic, sovereign nation, there are Americans who don’t want to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia. There are Americans who don’t understand, if Putin is allowed to take Ukraine, he’ll move on to other countries in his mad attempt to restore the glory of the Soviet Union.

Europeans understand the danger and are not blind to Russia’s threat. Those in the U.S. who don’t want to fund Ukraine, are putting their heads in the sand. They think having an ocean between us and dictators in Europe and Asia protects us. It doesn’t. It was stupid to think that way in 1940, and today, it’s really stupid to think America has no need to concern itself with Russia’s aggression in Europe.

Donald Trump’s desire to be friends with Putin was probably motivated more by a wish to build buildings in Russia than anything else. Then there’s Tucker Carlson. During his interview with the international war-criminal, he allowed Putin free control discussing the war. He never challenged any of Putin’s lies.

Those in Congress who object to aiding Ukraine don’t accept who Putin is. He is ruthless; he eliminates his opponents. He illegally invaded Ukraine, murdering innocent people. It’s unbelievable there are Americans supporting him, or at least enabling him, by holding up funding for Ukraine.

In the Senate, 17 Republicans, including Iowa’s two Senators, have voted with Democrats to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel. Twenty-seven Republicans voted against the measure, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton. What are they thinking?