Column: We need to support Ukraine because we support democracy

October 16, 2023 3:38 am

A participant at Thursday’s Wayne State University rally in support of war-torn Ukraine | Ken Coleman photo

My first awareness of something called the Soviet Union was as an 8-year-old boy in 1956. In November of that year, Soviet troops crushed a budding revolt against the Soviet-satellite puppet government.

Known as the “Hungarian Revolt,” the uprising went on 12 days before being crushed by Soviet tanks and troops. I remember watching grainy black-and-white news reports by CBS anchor Douglas Edwards and for the first time thinking I might like to be a journalist when I grew up.

In the end, thousands of Hungarians were killed and wounded and nearly a quarter-million of them fled the country. Soviet Russia dominance remained until the late 1980s.

I gained more insight into the Soviet Union when, more by accident than by design, I enlisted in the Army in 1967 and was assigned to the Army Security Agency for Russian-language training. An integral part of our coursework was learning the history of Russia and emergence of the Bolsheviks and formation of the Soviet Union between the World Wars.

Another act of Soviet domination of a smaller country occurred in 1968. As I graduated from the Defense Language Institute in the spring of 1968 and arrived at my duty station in northern Japan in July, the world was well-aware of the Prague Spring reform movement in Czechoslovakia and the brutal crushing of it in September. Even though our field station was half a world away, the events in Czechoslovakia were local for us.

Soviet forces stayed on until the USSR began to disintegrate two decades later.

I left the Army, obtained college degrees, and secured a direct commission to first lieutenant. For the next 30 years, I served in the Army National Guards or and Army Reserve until I retired in 2004.  As part of my office education, I attended Command and General Staff College. An untold number of C&GS students will recall the exercises war-gaming the Soviets bursting through the Fulda Gap in Germany to assault Western Europe.

It was in the fall of 1991, as we watched Mikhail Gorbachev loosen his grip on power that our class wondered and debated whether our focus on Soviet designs on westward expansion were at an end. At our graduation ceremony, a retired three-star general who saw service in World War II, Korea and in postwar Europe was asked: “Not likely,” was his answer.

That brings us to today as Ukrainians fight for their lives and culture against Vladimir Putin’s intention of restoring Soviet power to its former satellites, now democracies.  There is no question this is his intent and has been for decades.

As the House of Representatives tries to put some semblance of order to its now-reigning chaos, we need to understand Ukraine is fighting a holding action for the democracies bordering Russia on the west as well as the rest of Europe and even the U.S.

There’s no telling from where Matt Rosendale, a Montana congressman and possible Senate candidate, derives his sand-in-the-gears position that U.S. aid to Ukraine must wait until the southern border crisis is resolved – it’s bogus and my guess is that when he’s in cloakroom chortling with the rest of the Gaetz Pack he knows it, too. Congress should be working on both simultaneously.

It’s up to us to tell members of Congress we want continued financial and military support for Ukraine.  It’s simply an insurance policy to head off a greater world crisis.

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Peter Fox
Peter Fox

Peter Fox has had a 40-year career in communications beginning with 25 years as a daily newspaper reporter and editor in Wisconsin and Montana then director of public information for the University of Wisconsin System. Later he served a term as Wisconsin cabinet officer overseeing employment relations, afterwards leading a statewide newspaper association and the Park County Community Foundation.