Yesterday's headlines could have been written by J.R.R. Tolkien: the men of the West are mobilizing their forces to rush to the aid of a nation standing alone against an aggressive enemy who surrounds them with overwhelming numbers. In modern terms, NATO members are finally responding to Russia amassing 100,000 troops to the north, south, and east of Ukraine. Even the Biden administration has varied its policy of appeasement with a few vigorous actions; 8,500 American troops are "on alert for a possible rush deployment," said Washington Times reporter Guy Taylor on "Washington Watch."
It might be too little, too late. "What the Biden administration has to do is pour lethal materiel into the Ukrainian military," insisted Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin on "Washington Watch." "We forget the importance of a powerful, strong, capable military... and we'll pay the price for that." The Biden administration is still primarily trusting to its diplomatic guns. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this weekend, "we have a responsibility to see the diplomacy through for as far and as long as we can go." Apparently appointing an ambassador to Ukraine is a diplomatic bridge too far.
Putin has calculated that Western governments are too weak and divided to successfully stymie his aggression. A "new government in Germany" is "divided on its posture towards Russia," said Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on "Washington Watch." France's president has an election to win. High gas prices give "Russia more leverage over Europe," and America has "a weak president." Putin may be right.
Yet Biden's administration doesn't take him seriously, argued Cotton. "Most of what he says these days is a pretext... for his buildup of troops." Putin's propaganda blames the West for provoking Russia with fabricated claims. "He wants to reassemble the Greater Russian Empire, whether it's from the Tsarist days or the days of Soviet Russia" explained Cotton. "There can be no Greater Russia without Ukraine."
Putin also covets Ukraine for ideological reasons. He seeks "a network of non-democratic states around Russia" to serve as a buffer to the West, Cotton explained, and opposes any "representative government on the soil of Slavic nations" that could inspire the Russian people to demand a more accountable government. Since the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine has never been a serious candidate for NATO membership, but its people have striven to become freer, more prosperous, and more democratic, despite Russia's (often successful) sabotage and encroachment. Yet to Putin it is a threat.
President Biden "came into office talking about the importance of democracy," added Taylor, and how he would "stand with democratic allies." Last year, he abruptly pulled the rug out from under the fledgling democratic government of Afghanistan, a close U.S. ally. Will he stand aloof and watch another American enemy crush another American friend? The State Department ominously warned non-essential staff to evacuate the American embassy in Kiev, just as in Afghanistan, where it was code for "we don't plan to come rescue you."
Ukraine could be the next domino to fall. If Ukraine follows Afghanistan, what other democracies could fall to authoritarian regimes? "One that obviously comes to mind is... Taiwan," said Boykin. Communist China has targeted the island republic since World War II and continues encroaching on its territory. After that, what democracy could feel secure? Who would trust America's promises of protection? The world would be plunged into catastrophic chaos. Now, when we are strongest, is the chance to stop it.
Vladimir Putin may be more corporeal than Sauron, and Ukraine may be less legendary than Gondor, but the stakes of the conflict are just as high -- the fate of civilization could hang in the balance.
This column appeared originally here.
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