Porterville Recorder

The Price of Peace

- Contributi­ng Columnist

Two months ago, Vladimir Putin decided to cement his reputation as the man who returned Russia to her former glory, and invaded Ukraine — likely only the first of several such invasions. His excuse? Ukraine was under the control of Nazis — including, presumably, its Jewish President. Putin sent soldiers into Ukraine with 3 days’ rations. Apparently, he expected Volodymyr Zelenskyy to flee, and the Ukrainian people to welcome soldiers with open arms and bouquets of flowers. In less than a month, the Ukrainians killed nearly 20,000 Russian soldiers — not much of a welcome. That should have extinguish­ed Putin’s delusions, but it didn’t.

Having failed to capture Kiev, the Russians pulled back and concentrat­ed on the Donbas region in the east, where about 20 pcrcent of the residents speak Russian. That’s about the percentage of Texans who speak Spanish, so it’s unclear why he thought that would justify declaring two prorussian republics and annexing them. That’s his current plan, but if it works, there will be more.

So now it’s a slugfest between Russia and several of the NATO countries, including the United States. The Ukrainians, it turns out, are tough customers. If they can get enough weapons, they probably can drive Russia from their territory. And hopefully, Putin will lose his appetite for conquest.

Russia isn’t the Soviet Union. The GDP of Russia is tiny, comparable to that of Australia or Italy. The military forces of the United States are between five and seven times larger, depending on the metric. The Russian army is poorly trained, poorly motivated and poorly equipped. And Ukrainians, fighting as they are to defend their own soil, are fierce and fearless.

But they need help. More than five million of their citizens have fled to neighborin­g countries; 100,000 of them are headed our way. Poland is currently housing two and a half million refugees in private homes. But the host families, as well as the health care and educationa­l systems will need financial resources. The same resources are needed in other counties, including here. And Ukraine will need lots and lots of weapons.

This is where taxes come in. We trust private business to build cars and grow food, and that seems to work pretty well. But health care in our country costs double what it does in the countries in Europe that have national health care, and their outcomes are better. Providing shelter and related resources to refugees isn’t something we can leave up to private enterprise either, because like our medical industry, they can’t figure out how to both make a buck out of it and behave like compassion­ate human beings. And our weapons manufactur­ers can’t intervene directly. These are some of the many areas of human endeavor the “free market” can’t be trusted to manage properly. So we let government do it, and we collect taxes to pay for it. Taxes are the price of peace.

During World War II, taxes went up pretty spectacula­rly. The highest income brackets paid 91 percent of all income over $400,000. They didn’t like it, but it was their patriotic duty. The cost of failure was unthinkabl­e. Hitler had to be stopped.

President Biden has asked for $33 billion to help Ukraine repel the Russian invasion. Most if not all of the NATO countries will pass similar provisions, but we’re the big kids, and that’s our fair share. But the Republican Party, which understand­s a Biden success will reduce chances for a Republican victory in 2024, wants Biden to fail, no matter who else gets hurt. This isn’t new; during President Obama’s administra­tion, more than 400 bills were introduced to improve the lot of the American middle class, and the Republican­s killed every one of them via procedural filibuster. Hurting the country in order to help their party is Republican doctrine.

What’s defeating Russia worth? EVERYTHING. And if Putin starts lobbing nuclear weapons around, even the dumbest among us will understand that. It’s true Russia and China are our enemies, but if the Republican Party defeats Biden’s military aid package, we’ll have to admit that our greatest enemies, and Russia’s greatest allies, were born right here in America.

Les Pinter is a contributi­ng columnist and a Springvill­e resident. His column appears weekly in The Recorder. Pinter’s book, HTTPV: How a Grocery Shopping Website Can Save America, is available in both Kindle and hardcopy formats on Amazon.com. Contact him at lespinter@earthlink.net

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