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Ukraine: An important litmus test for Western Civilization

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks after giving a Ukrainian national flag to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Kamala Harris during his address the U.S. Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. on December 21, 2022.(Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks after giving a Ukrainian national flag to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Kamala Harris during his address the U.S. Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. on December 21, 2022.(Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images) | Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The stakes could not be higher for the future of Western Civilization than what is currently transpiring in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian oligarch and former KGB colonel who has said the “greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century” was the collapse of the “evil empire” of the old Soviet Union, has brutally invaded the sovereign country of Ukraine.

Let’s be clear! Putin cannot fulfill his life goal of reconstructing the Russian Empire, which for much of the 20th century masqueraded as the U.S.S.R., without incorporating Ukraine as an integral part of the Russian state.

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Ukraine is very different from the Baltic States (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) and the other former Eastern Bloc post — World War II satellite states (Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, etc.).

The Ukrainians are at least Slavic ethnic cousins of the Russians. In fact, Putin and the Russians are wrong when they say that Ukraine is “not really a nation” and it is really part of Russia. The fake nation, if there was one, was the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) which was an attempt to recreate the Russian Empire under the guise of an emergent communist ideology. When that bankrupt ideology finally collapsed in 1991, 15 separate historical nations reemerged (including Russia and Ukraine).

A century ago, officials from the “Ukrainian Socialist Republic” sought an agreement to create the U.S.S.R. in the wake of the Russian Revolution, seeking to feed the illusion of the burgeoning Ukrainian nationalist sentiment.

After being subjugated brutally by the U.S.S.R. for 69 years (including the infamous “created” famine of 1932-1933 during which millions of Ukrainian peasants were deliberately starved to death), on Dec. 1, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist and 90% of Ukrainian voters cast their votes for independence from Russia.

Thus, the Ukrainian zeal for independence was finally realized. This was a dream come true for Ukrainians and a nightmare for the Vladimir Putins of the world. In 2014 Putin seized the Crimea by force and had been sponsoring a low-scale insurgency in eastern Ukraine which has large numbers of ethnic Russians in its population.

It is interesting to note that polling shows that 90% of voters voted for independence in Ukraine nationwide and almost 77% of voters supported independence in the Russian majority Donetsk. Even in the heavily Russian Crimea, 59% voted for independence. This would lead one to believe even Ukraine’s ethnic Russians preferred Ukrainian freedom to reunification with Mother Russia under Vladimir Putin.

In early 2022, Putin, observing the shameful American abandonment of Afghanistan, decided that this was an opportune time to “reunite” Ukraine with “Mother Russia” by force. In other words, America’s apparent weakness in withdrawing from Afghanistan was more temptation than Vlad could withstand.

Putin also miscalculated the Ukrainians’ will to resist. Fortunately, President Biden decided to assist Ukraine, enabling the Ukrainians to this point to successfully resist the Russians. (Of course, if he had aided them earlier, the Russians might not have gambled on an invasion in the first place.)

I have been both shocked and ashamed at the reaction of some “conservatives” who have opposed America’s support for the Ukrainians, criticizing President Zelensky for cracking down on freedom of speech and placing restrictions on the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (the leadership of that church opposes Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion).

I would remind these conservative critics that President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War and at the beginning of World War II we threw approximately 150,000 Japanese-Americans into internment camps in the wake of Pearl Harbor without any due process.

Even vibrant democracies get pretty testy when their survival is at stake. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, our government surveilled mosques.

I am frankly bewildered by the conservatives’ criticism of President Zelensky for appearing before a joint session of Congress in military style fatigue dress. Do they not remember Churchill in a military style jumpsuit during his visit to America in the midst of the hour of Britain’s greatest peril in 1941?

For me, the assistance provided to Ukraine is a matter of national honor. As I pointed out in 2014 in The Christian Post (“Nuclear Proliferation, Ukraine, and the Cop on the Beat”), the United States formally guaranteed to protect Ukraine’s security if they gave up the nuclear weapons they had inherited when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 (at that point Ukraine was the third largest nuclear power in the world based on the nuclear weapons they inherited from the former Soviet Union).

The Clinton administration, rightly concerned about these weapons ending up in the hands of terrorists, made it a high priority to urge Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons in return for economic aid and security guarantees. The result was the “Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances” in which Ukraine gave up its nukes and signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Russia, Britain and the U.S. pledged to protect Ukraine’s “territorial integrity.”

Does the U.S. want to further destabilize the world order by once again going back on our word or failing to keep our word to other countries? If the answer is yes, think about what that would do to all of our commitments to allies around the world. If we allow Russia to succeed in this aggression, the world becomes a much more dangerous place as naked aggression is rewarded.

Furthermore, let’s clearly understand what would be happening in Ukraine if, absent American and Western military aid, the Russians had prevailed militarily.

Based on Russian behavior in the areas of Ukraine they have occupied, the picture is not pretty. There has been mass rape of Ukrainian women in occupied areas. The New York Times reported Ukrainian women who had been raped repeatedly, saying that Russian soldiers told them that they wanted to sexually assault Ukrainian women so repeatedly that these women would never want to be intimate with any man again — resulting in fewer Ukrainian babies.

Second, based on the mass graves and makeshift torture chambers uncovered in occupied areas of Ukraine that have been liberated, we would have concentration camps all across Ukraine with executions of Ukraine’s political and cultural leaders.

Third, the Ukrainian language would be banned in every area of society.

Fourth, approximately 150,000 Ukrainian children have already been kidnapped by the Russians and sent to Russia to be raised by Russian parents. If Russia is ultimately triumphant in this conflict, several hundred thousand more Ukrainian families will have their children kidnapped and sent to Russia for adoption.

It is worth noting here that Russia is in the midst of a demographic meltdown, according to demographer and economist Peter Zeihan (The End of the World is Just the Beginning, 2022). Zeihan explains that one reason Putin invaded Ukraine now was that given their horrific demographics, in a decade he would not have enough potential soldiers to invade.

Furthermore, how does anyone think that if Putin is successful in Ukraine, he will stop there? He will continue his aggression until he is stopped. If Putin is allowed to succeed, NATO will unravel as the nations of Europe, no longer able to trust the U.S., will all seek their own accommodation with Putin.

If we allow Putin to succeed in Ukraine, the world will quickly become a far more dangerous and barbarous place. Dictatorial fellow travelers in China and Iran will be emboldened to act in ever more barbarous ways as well.

And in Ukraine, America and the West have found a real country in every sense to help defend, not merely aspiring countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Ukrainians are not asking for anyone to fight for them. They are fighting (quite bravely and well) for their own freedom. They are not asking us to fight. All they are asking for from us are the weapons with which to defend themselves.

The shameful argument that some conservatives are making is that it is costing us too much financially to aid the Ukrainians. It would be far more costly not to do something. Plus if you gave any fair-minded person 24 hours with the federal budget, they could find enough waste to arm Ukraine for years to come.

The world of freedom-loving nations should draw inspiration and resolve from our incredibly brave compatriots, the Ukrainians. I proudly wear a Ukrainian flag lapel pin every day as an act of solidarity. Such bravery should never be abandoned, but wholeheartedly supported. 

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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