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As Russian troops crossed into Ukraine to fight an unprovoked war, former United States President Donald Trump and other major political actors on the right, like former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, were openly praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for the tactics used in his invasion of Ukraine, an independent country.
As Ukraine’s democratic rights and freedom are under attack, it is important to look inward at our own democracy in America. America has seen its democracy go under assault in the last six years, from Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to bogus claims of election fraud after Trump’s 2020 election loss and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot to the wave of voter suppression laws being written in state legislatures all over the country.
There are now those on the right, most prominently the former president and his former secretary of state, who openly praise the Russian strongman for invading a country on false pretenses. Trump said Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was “genius” and “savvy.” Pompeo said he has “enormous respect for (Putin).”
“To have prominent American political figures, especially one who held the highest office in the U.S., supporting Russia in this invasion is a shameful indictment of how far America has swayed from its unabashed support of democracy.”
Pompeo’s shameful praise of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was even played on Russian state television as justification for their invasion.
This high praise from Trump and Pompeo came as Ukrainian civilians were dying at the hands of the Russian military.
Ukraine is a free and democratically inclined country that gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. To have prominent American political figures, especially one who held the highest office in the U.S., supporting Russia in this invasion is a shameful indictment of how far America has swayed from its unabashed support of democracy. America is a country that loves freedom, but in order to do so, we cannot support politicians like Putin as he invades Ukraine.
Trump has a long history of admiring Putin, likely because Putin is the type of authoritarian leader who apparently faces little accountability and Trump wants nothing more than to be able to rule as Putin does. Trump and Putin’s relationship was on and off but started to kick up once Trump was elected president. Later, it was discovered that Russia had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
It’s important to remember the Soviet Union ended in 1991, which was not that long ago in the larger scope of history. Trump and Pompeo were both alive when the Soviet Union fell and when Ukraine became an independent country. They were alive when former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the poster child of the modern Republican Party, went to Germany and gave a speech at the Brandenburg Gate wherein he said, “Mr. (Mikhail) Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
“Americans have to be united against the invasion of Ukraine. We need to drown out the loud minority of those inclined to autocrats but disguise themselves as pro-democracy.”
In America, we now have political descendants of Reagan praising Putin, America’s most constant adversary, for invading Ukraine likely to fulfill his dream of rebuilding the Soviet Union.
As Ukraine braces for more violent and terrifying attacks on its freedom, we as Americans need to stand with Ukraine, as the freedom we so cherish today was earned and kept in a similar fashion. As Americans, we should look to Ukraine as an example of unity and perseverance through incredibly hard times.
Ukrainian citizens, like former boxing champions Wladimir Klitschko and brother Vitali Klitschko, who is now the mayor of Kyiv, have taken up arms to help defend Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was urged to leave the country by American officials but instead chose to stay in the capital to defend his people.
We must also look at the protesters in Russia who are against the illegitimate invasion of their neighbors. Protesting actions of the Russian government, especially those ordered directly by Putin, can come with extreme personal costs, and their bravery deserves to be admired.
Americans have to be united against the invasion of Ukraine. We need to drown out the loud minority of those inclined to autocrats but disguise themselves as pro-democracy. If America, the longest-lasting democracy on Earth, cannot fully unite behind Ukraine and its struggle for freedom, then do we really support worldwide democracy?
We must also see why men like Trump and Pompeo would admire Putin, a former KGB (Russian intelligence and secret police) officer who is thought to have journalists and political opponents killed. After failing to accept the results of the U.S. 2020 presidential election and now supporting Putin’s methods in Ukraine, it is clear that Trump does not support true democracy. We should also appreciate the rarity of common sense that comes from Republicans like Senator Mitt Romney, who offered, by far, the strongest rebuttal to Trump’s praise for Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Reach Michael Stella at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michaelstella_.