It’s all connected. The years of Trump being manipulated into lauding Putin’s savvy and genius. The scene in Helsinki when Trump sided with Putin over America’s intelligence agencies. The weapons Trump withheld from Ukraine and the perfect phone call to blackmail the Ukrainian president into digging up dirt on Joe Biden. The failure to adequately punish Trump for that international crime. The attacks on NATO. The abandonment of allies. The dictator love. The labeling of the press as enemies of the people. The America First hogwash. The relentless lying. It’s all connected to what we see playing out in the streets of Kyiv. And still, the likes of Trump, Pompeo, and Tucker Carlson can’t bring themselves to side with democracy over the Moscow Murderer. Ordinary Ukranians have the guts to face Putin’s army. The Senate GOP was scared to stand up to Trump. And the broader party is afraid to stand up to him and call him out, even now, as he sides with pure evil.
Fortunately, Europe, Biden, and much of the free world are not so misguided. Putin has unified the alliances he sought to divide. NATO is more determined. The EU is more unified. “The European Union agreed Sunday to close its airspace to Russian airlines, and spend hundreds of millions of euros on buying weapons for Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets in its latest response to Russia’s invasion.” These nations and organizations understand that this isn’t just about a sick, war criminal killing innocent civilians to achieve a hopeless fantasy of piecing back together the Soviet empire, it’s a clash between authoritarianism and democracy. As David Remnik writes in The New Yorker, “What threatens Putin is not Ukrainian arms but Ukrainian liberty. “His invasion amounts to a furious refusal to live with the contrast between the repressive system he keeps in place at home and the aspirations for liberal democracy across the border.” The fighting is in Ukraine, but the front in this war stretches from Kyiv to Mar-a-Lago. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and MAGA’s Big Lie are both part of a broad war against democracy. Hopefully Americans will be inspired by Ukrainian bravery and stand up for democracy, because it’s all connected.
As a teen during the Holocaust, my dad was hunted by Ukrainian henchmen working for the Nazis. When history pushed, he pushed back. Today, he would be proud of the courage shown by Ukraine’s Jewish president Volodymyr Zelensky. When the U.S. offered him an escape route, he responded, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” Man, I wish my dad — who survived the Holocaust because he got a gun and ammunition — was around to hear that line from a Jewish leader in Europe. Zelensky, the former comedian who used to play the part of a fictional president, found himself in a situation that is all too real. The guy Trump thought was so weak that he could be blackmailed during that phone call has proven himself strong enough to become an international hero fighting against a corrupt madman and for democracy. He is the very opposite of Donald Trump. As Franklin Foer writes his Atlantic piece, A Prayer for Volodymyr Zelensky, “The whole world can see that his execution is very likely imminent. What reason does he have to doubt that Vladimir Putin will order his murder, as the Russian leader has done with so many of his bravest critics and enemies?” And yet, as history pushes, the standup stands firm. During the last years of his life, my dad repeatedly lamented that Americans weren’t taking the threat to our democracy seriously enough. “Vhy aren’t the people out in the streets?” Well, today, inspired by the Ukrainian grandson of a Holocaust survivor, hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets across Europe, and even in Russia itself. The fight is there. The fight is here, too. It’s the same fight my dad fought. It’s all connected.
The world should have stood up to Putin a long time ago and treated him and his oligarch crew as the criminals they are. But from America to Europe and beyond, they are beginning to stand up to him now. And dictators like China’s Xi, who obviously gave Putin the greenlight during their Olympics elbow rubbing, are seeing this resolve. The ruble had been turned to rubble. The sanctions are stiff. The West has weaponized Russia’s Central Bank against Putin. Even Switzerland says it will freeze Russian assets, setting aside a tradition of neutrality. The Swiss realize the fight is there, too. There’s no room for neutrality anywhere. It’s all connected.