Why America Should Care About Ukraine

Written on March 18, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in News

In this age of instantaneous global communications, people don’t give a second thought to finding out what is happening on the other side of the world. A missing plane in Asia, a gory murder trial in Africa: It’s all there with one click of the mouse or turn of the page.

Knowing, however, is not the same as caring, and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine is the latest test of whether or not Americans can, or should, care about events far from home. War-weary and debt-saddled, it would appear that America has good reasons to sit out a conflict where it is hard to find vital national interests.

There are many easy excuses for not intervening, and in recent days here in my adopted home of New York City, I’ve heard them all:

“Let the Europeans handle it, it’s their backyard.” “Why mess with Vladimir Putin over Crimea, what’s it to us?” “There’s not much we can do anyway.”

It’s hard to argue with that first one, actually. The European Union has more at stake, has more leverage over Russia and has more responsibility as a neighbor to Ukraine.

But this doesn’t mean the United States should stay out, and it has been good to hear President Obama and John Kerry in recent days sending the message that America is ready to take action to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

As for American interests and responsibilities, I should first say that my perspective is partly born from looking at America from where I was raised in Baku, Azerbaijan, in the Soviet Union.

The United States of America as the “shining city upon a hill,” a Biblical phrase popularized by John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, may seem like tired political rhetoric to many Americans, or as dangerous imperialistic American exceptionalism to others, but it was quite real to many of us behind the Iron Curtain.

It mattered to know someone outside cared about our plight and was fighting for us. It mattered when Reagan called the USSR out as the evil empire we knew it to be. His uncompromising approach to negotiations with the Soviets led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and freedom for many millions of people, a legacy that every American should be proud of.

It is an inheritance to embrace, not discard.

Trying to ignore the world’s dangers and dictators never works for long, and the situation in Ukraine will be harder to deal with the longer strong measures are delayed.

Vladimir Putin is not someone who can or should be ignored. Last Thursday, the largest opposition news websites in Russia were shut down by the Kremlin in the blink of an eye.

With television and print under strict control, the Internet has long been the last refuge of free speech in Putin’s police state, so despite the many warning signs this sudden blackout came as shock.

The news site run by my organization, Kasparov.ru, is included on the list of sites blocked for, to use the censor’s exact language, “information containing appeals to mass riots, extremist activities, and participation in mass (public) actions held with infringement of the established order.”

Translation: Telling the truth and reporting the facts about Putin’s Russia will not be tolerated.

The timing of these shutdowns could not be more ominous. Russian troops invaded Crimea, part of Ukraine, last week, and Russian forces have been massing on the border of eastern Ukraine. Internal Russian propaganda about the need to “protect” ethnic Russians inside Ukraine has reached fever pitch.

Putin is preparing for war and once again raising the stakes in his decade-long confrontation with the United States and Europe over his attempt to patch together a Frankenstein version of the Soviet Union by using bribery, extortion and brute force.

Every politician knows that banging the war drums can do wonders for a sagging approval rating, and you could say that Putin’s career was launched with this technique. An undistinguished Yeltsin administration functionary from the security services with no public profile, Putin came to prominence and power in 1999 after being put in charge of the second war in Chechnya, which he carried out with astonishing viciousness.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/stop-man-article-1.1722280#ixzz2wD0ezFfJ


By Garry Kasparov. Published on Mar. 16, 2014 in NY Daily News; Kasparov is the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, based in New York City. He was the 13th world chess champion.


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