Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 16.07.2018
It is a foregone conclusion that Trump will betray the United States at the Appeasement Summit in Helsinki with Putin. Instead of defending American democratic institutions from the Russian assault against them, Trump has defended Russia’s audacious and successful falsification of the 2016 US election. Trump has described attempts to investigate Russia’s hybrid war against the US as a “witch hunt” and has denied all culpability in the collusion that made him the nominal winner of the presidential election over the actual winner Hillary Clinton. The weak leader Trump lacks any capacity to advance US interests, and will easily succumb to ex-KGB man Putin at the Appeasement Summit.
But what of Ukrainian interests? Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and occupies Crimea and part of Donbas. Russia claims to have ‘annexed’ Crimea, but US policy is not to recognize any change of status of Crimea away from Ukrainian sovereignty. Russia wages war against Ukraine in Donbas, and US policy is to demand that Russia adhere to the Minsk Agreement, withdraw its troops, and return international border control to Ukraine. US policy is to support Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to oppose Russian aggression. But Trump has never said he supports that policy. Trump has never said to Putin, “Get out of Ukraine!” Nor has he ever said that “Crimea is Ukraine.”
Every democratic leader who has talked to Trump is worried. All of Trump’s statements about Russia’s war crimes and crimes against humanity are supportive of Russia and Putin and dismissive of the victims. Trump is not on the side of the Ukrainian people who are being attacked by Russia. He is not on the side of the families of the victims who were shot down and killed by Russia in Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. He is not on the side of the victims of the nerve agent attack by Russia in Salisbury, England. He is not on the side of the Syrian civilians who have been massacred by the Russian airforce bombing campaign against hospitals, marketplaces, residences, and civilian infrastructure. He is not on the side of the family of murdered American Joseph Stone, who was blown up by a roadside bomb placed by Russian armed forces in territory invaded and occupied by them in Ukraine. Leaders of democracies see that Trump has an unlimited sympathy for killer Putin, and no sympathy at all for his victims.
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, met with Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium. He was so alarmed by what Trump said and did not say that he is going public with his concerns. President Tusk said: “In several conversations with me, President Trump did not hide that he has less enthusiasm for Ukraine and more understanding of what Russia has done in Ukraine.”
Trump supports aggressor Russia over defender Ukraine. Trump supports autocracy Russia over democracy Ukraine. Trump supports enemy-of-the-USA Russia over friend-and-partner-of-the-USA Ukraine.
The good news is this: Trump shares with Putin a profound ignorance about Ukraine. Neither man understands the fierce fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people, whose zeal for freedom and independence is unquenchable. Neither Russian invasion nor American appeasement can put out the fire that burns at the heart of the Ukrainian nation. Putin cannot ‘annex’ Crimea to Russia and Trump cannot ‘give’ Crimea to Russia. It is simply not in their power. Crimea is Ukraine.
Ukraine has fought alone against Russian imperialist aggression and crypto-fascist tyranny for over four years. In every respect, Ukraine is to Putin’s Russia today as Britain was to Hitler’s Germany after the Fall of France in 1940. The spirit of the British people to resist the Nazis that Winston Churchill inspired in his 4 June 1940 speech is the same spirit that imbues the Ukrainian people to resist the Muscovites: “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. … We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Ukrainians are fighting Russian invaders now in the trenches of Donbas. They are inspired by the legacy of the army of the Ukrainian National Republic of a century ago, and their heroic fight against the Bolshevik Russian invaders. If worse gets to worst and Russia expands its aggression to the war of annihilation Putin wants it to be, the Ukrainian people will fight guerrilla warfare. They will fight in the villages, they will fight on the steppe, they will fight in the forests, they will fight in the mountains, and they will fight in the fenlands. They will take inspiration from the legacy of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Ukrainian Insurgent Army which fought guerrilla warfare against the Soviet Russian invader-occupiers of Ukraine from 1944 into the late 1950s.
Putin discounts the spirit of Ukrainian people, and that is his downfall. Trump knows nothing of the spirit of the Ukrainian people. Even if Trump betrays Ukraine in words at the Appeasement Summit in Helsinki, he cannot harm the war effort of Ukrainians against invader Russia – they’re already fighting on their own, without meaningful help from the United States or any other country.
In the end, Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for Ukraine and eagerness to understand what Russia has done in Ukraine harms Trump and harms the United States. But Trump is to Ukraine nothing more than what Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy was to Britain: a defeatist, sympathetic to the enemy, who discounts the chances of the weaker democratic country against the stronger fascist country. Trump doesn’t understand Ukraine just as Kennedy didn’t understand Britain. Ukrainians live in “We will never surrender!” times. Ukrainians will fight to defend their homeland to the end of days. Russia will never conquer Ukraine. No betrayal by Trump at Helsinki can undo the fatal mistake Putin made by invading Ukraine.