Shame of the West

President Zelensky is right. We have left a young, emerging ally of the West alone to the wolves.

President Zelensky addresses his people February 24, 2022; screenshot.

President Zelensky’s midnight address to his people during the early days of the Russian assault on his nation is going to go down in the history of this generation as a profile in courage.

“To be honest,” he declared, having dropped his typical suit and pressed shirt for military fatigues, “I don’t see anyone with us…. We have been left alone to defend our state. I asked the leaders of 27 European countries if Ukraine can join NATO. Everyone was afraid.”

Watching, in real-time, the rape of the Ukrainian nation by President Putin should fill any well-meaning observer with a sense of shame. Particularly those at the helm of Western nations and others who could have done more but didn’t or who could do more but won’t.

Mr. Zelensky is right. We have left a young, emerging ally of the West alone to the wolves. We might well have invited this onslaught through months of diplomatic waffling and the promise of inaction.

Now, the best we offer the sons and daughters of sovereign Ukraine is a regime of modest sanctions, protestations of solidarity, dollops of humanitarian aid, hashtags, memes, and Ukrainian flags galore adorning a million social media profiles.

Bizarrely, we talk of progress in the West in terms of equity, benevolent law enforcement, the purging of imperfect historical figures, transgender bathrooms, porous borders, and critical race theory. It’s a stretch to claim progress when we fall so short on the big questions of history.

It’s hard to escape the feeling of civilizational stagnation on matters of war and peace. As Mr. Zelensky noted in an earlier speech on Thursday, “If you, respected European leaders, leaders of the free world, if you do not help us today, if you do not give Ukraine real help, the war will knock on your door tomorrow.”

History suggests he’s correct on this point. Expansionist dictators never lose their appetite for expansion, and a bearable consequence is no consequence at all. It’s no disgrace that the West has grown weary of conflict. Certainly there’s little appetite in its capitals to pay for Ukraine’s freedom with the blood of their own youth. It is a disgrace to display the kind of apathy we’re witnessing.  

“Europe has enough strength to stop this aggression,” Mr. Zelensky declared in a video today. The night before, according to Axios, he told European leaders via video conference: “This might be the last time you see me alive.”

Is the cost of establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine too much to bear? What about sustained shipments of advanced weapons to Ukraine’s soldiers? What about support in the realm of cyber warfare? Or meaningful action at the United Nations, as Ukraine has asked of us? Where are the outraged throngs in the streets of Western capitals?

On sanctions now championed by the Biden administration, a former assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing, Marshall S. Billingslea, warns that “the large caliber artillery in our sanctions arsenal sit dormant.” Mr. Billingslea offers five measures that “if taken in tandem would bring the Russian economy to a screeching halt.”

Of these, he laments, “Biden has so far done only one.”

So, like the Czechs in 1938, the Haganah of 1947, the Kurdish Peshmerga, Rwandan Tutsis, Syrian rebels, and Iranian dissidents, to name a few, the Ukrainians stand defiant against impossible odds and the shame of our inaction is again ours to bear. When Goliath attacks, we must stand with David.

Slava Ukraini.

The New York Sun

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