Source: Sally Zelikovsky

In an ideal world, maybe we could ignore what’s happening in Ukraine but we have to see the world as it is, not how we want it to be: Russia is calling and wants its Ukraine back.

I generally appreciate Tucker Carlson, but every time he discusses Ukraine and Russia, I bristle — especially when he contends that America has no interest in Ukraine.  I know some of you might agree with Carlson, but you can be a solid conservative who is just as war-weary as the next guy and still see a security interest in Ukraine without being a neocon. 

Putin claims to be protecting Russians left in Ukraine after the USSR collapsed, and that Ukraine is rightfully Russian and always has been, even though, historically, there was a Kiev before there was a Moscow.  (By the way, it isn’t pronounced keev as in keen, but kuh-YEEV in Ukrainian and KEY-yev in Russian.)

Vlad has been a serial breaker of international norms starting as early as 2008 when he invaded Georgia.  He annexed Crimea in 2014 and made his first incursion into the Donbas region.  Not only has he flagrantly violated Article 2(4) of the U.N. charter by his “use of force against the territorial integrity” of Ukraine, but he has repeatedly violated the promises Russia, the U.S., and the U.K. made in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum: security to Ukraine for giving up its nukes, with assurances that the U.S. would respond if Russia were to renege.  All three nations agreed “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force” against Ukraine.

As a former vassal state of the USSR, 1994 Ukraine had the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, a shady political culture, and a rocky economy.  Before ever being considered for E.U. or NATO membership, Ukraine had a long list of changes to make, including severing its umbilical cord with Russia and ousting Russian sympathizers and puppets who continued to pollute its political system.  President Zelensky understood how critical it was for Ukraine’s future to be linked to the West and has been relatively fearless in preparing Ukraine to make those changes.

It’s not hard to see why Putin — no doubt empowered by Biden’s boneheaded moves on energy and Afghanistan — doesn’t like Zelensky. 

So what exactly is our security interest in the second-largest country in Europe, second only to Russia?  Just look at a map. 

Ukraine is sandwiched between Russia and the rest of Europe and is bordered to the west and north by former eastern and central European satellite states of the USSR. With the exception of Belarus and Moldova, are all are current E.U. and NATO members!  Ukraine is a formidable buffer against any incursions from Russia and its buddy, China.  It’s also the obvious thoroughfare for Russia’s oil pipeline to western Europe.

With some of the most fertile land on the planet, Ukraine is known as the “Breadbasket of Europe.”  Imagine the economic prosperity to Ukraine, the tax dollars to the E.U., and the benefits to all of Europe if Ukraine were able to exploit that capability to its fullest. 

Speaking of natural resources, the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Luhansk and Donetsk are located and the war is raging, is loaded with coal.  Why would we want to turn any of this over to Putin?

Then there’s the highly educated and computer-literate population.  Ukraine is home to some of the largest bot farms and hacker mafias engaged in sordid cyber-crimes that threaten the entire world.  Would you rather their talents were used to benefit Putin and hurt the rest of us or that they were cleaned up by a Western-focused Ukraine and re-oriented for good?

Conservatives give liberal Europe a hard time, but those Europeans are a huge part of our lives.  We have shared histories and cultures.  There has never been a longer, more peaceful, and prosperous time in Europe — and that is all in jeopardy now because of Putin.  How many lives will be shattered before we re-learn that an unstable Europe is bad for America? 

Tucker and some of his guests suggest that we should have listened more to Russia’s fears of having a shared border with a potential NATO and E.U. member.  After all, we wouldn’t tolerate Mexico having a political, economic, and military relationship with Russia. 

O.K.  They want Ukraine on their team, and if Ukraine wanted to be on their team, then those arguments might have some merit.  But, except for the Putinistas living in Ukraine, the Ukrainian people don’t want to go back to the good old days of the gulags, poverty, communal living, empty stores, and the complete suppression of individuality and freedom.  They want to be on our team; they want a bite of the same apple that sister states like Poland and Hungary have been munching on.  And we should want them on our team.

Despite abuses in our political system, America is still the good guy.  We aren’t perfect, but we don’t violate international norms and treaties as a rule the way Putin does.  He hasn’t even fulfilled Russia’s obligation under Article 2(3) of the U.N. Charter to resolve conflicts peacefully — like negotiating some kind of return of Russian natives living in Eastern Ukraine or establishing a tribunal to handle legal claims of human rights violations.    

Vlad is intent on leaving his mark as the despot, who, for no good reason, turned the world on its head by upending the safety and prosperity of nearly a billion people.  He will be singlehandedly responsible for tremendous human suffering.

For anyone who doubts how good we’ve had it, you’re about to see how bad things can get.  We are ill-prepared for war, tired after Iraq and Afghanistan, and a shadow of ourselves after two years of COVID Hell.  Our military is in shambles, with thousands of experienced soldiers forced out because of wokism and vaccination requirements.  Incompetents are in charge.  Our manufacturing sector is in disarray, the supply chain compromised.  We are facing evil forces trying to undermine our families and culture.  The young are ill-equipped to handle the struggles that generations before us faced — focused, instead, on their genitalia and the Sisyphean task of finding out where they fall on the gender spectrum.  Teetering on a full-blown Constitutional crisis, we are polarized into two de facto countries, where we cannot even agree on our raison d’être

Although Putin benefits from the hackers, the coal, and the soil, he doesn’t really need any of it; Russia is a large, resourceful country.  He wants control of the land, the hegemony that comes with it, and the potential to expand.  A patient man, he’s been at this since 2008. 

We could allow Putin his Ukraine and hope it stops there.  Or we could support the Ukrainians because, if the dominoes continue to fall, the only moves left are against NATO members, and then the stakes are astronomical.