The Columbus Dispatch

JD Vance wrong on Ukraine; US must be involved globally

- Your Turn Christian Raffensper­ger Guest columnist

An AP poll this week showed that 20% of Americans think the United States should do nothing about the war in Ukraine, while another 52% said that we should have little involvemen­t.

One nation is invading another sovereign country and violating their borders, and the vast majority of Americans do not want to get involved.

Here in Ohio, we see a similar divide on Ukraine in the race for the Republican nomination for Senate between J.D. Vance, who supports staying out of Ukraine entirely and Jane Timken, who believes that even the current sanctions may not be a strong enough measure.

I would suggest that contextual­izing this issue is essential to understand what is going on, and why.

On Thursday, Russian politician Vitaliy Milonov was a guest on the BBC and parroted President Vladimir Putin’s remarks that the Ukrainian government was run by Nazis and that the Russians were engaged in “de-nazificati­on.”

Utilizing the specter of Nazism, the Russians are attempting to engage western interest and suggest that their fight is a righteous one – one of the last times that the Russians and Americans were on the same side in a major world conflict, and the last time in Europe. However, Ukraine is certainly not run by Nazis. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected in a democratic election and won every region in Ukraine.

Moreover, in a country with multiple languages, Zelensky’s first language is Russian, and he learned Ukrainian only second. Finally, he is Jewish.

To say that Zelensky is a Nazi is so absurd as to be laughable if people were not dying while these claims are being made.

On the same BBC program, Milonov, a member of Putin’s United Russia Party, made the claim that Russian bombers over Ukraine were “pigeons of peace.”

Such blatant and evident propaganda should be a signal of the absurdity of Russian claims. Not only that, but it also evokes propaganda of past ages.

In 1939, when the Soviet Union invaded western Ukraine and western Belarus (as part of an agreement with Nazi Germany), Pravda printed stories that the Soviet soldiers were welcomed with bread and salt, the traditiona­l welcoming gifts in east Slavic lands. These stories were patently false.

Later that year, when the Soviet Union invaded Finland during the short-lived “Winter War,” Viacheslav Molotov suggested that the bombers over Finland were dropping bread, not bombs. This caused the quite famous response from the Finns that they were not throwing incendiary devices at the Soviet soldiers but giving them “Molotov cocktails.”

Vance has suggested that we need to focus our attention on our southern border and securing it, rather than involve ourselves in foreign affairs.

Instead, I offer that if we care about the security of one border and ask people and nations to respect that border, then we need to care about the security of all borders and to protect them.

And to the claim that our first president, George Washington, suggested an isolationi­st policy that we should still follow, I would point out that war eventually found the United States in the 20th century, and we need to stay involved in the world to attempt to minimize future, fatal, conflicts.

Christian Raffensper­ger is the Kenneth E. Wray Chair in the Humanities at Wittenberg University. He is also the Archie K. Davis Fellow at the National Humanities Center in Spring 2022. He is a Russian and Ukrainian historian.

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