Ukraine – Shame
Gideon D. Asche
“…we have seen columns of Russian equipment: primarily Russian tanks,
Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops
entering into Ukraine.” Gen. Philip Breedlove (SACEUR)
I started this as a completely different article.
I did my research, and the original piece was ready. All I needed was a nifty-cool quote from a Ukrainian dissident to top my point off, and I knew right where to get it. I have an associate who ended up as a professor in Kiev.
I met him in Lvov back when we both wore another man’s clothes. My friend Kostya was arrested in ‘86, and he also went through some hard times at the hands of the KGB. I won’t try to describe the things the KGB liked to do in interrogations. Let’s just say Kostya, like me, is still wrapped a little too tight for civilized society.
I knew he wouldn’t fail me for a poignant, emotion-stirring, statement about freedom, standing up for what was right or the evil of Putin and the New Soviet Era. I needed to touch base with my old friend anyway.
I sent him an e-mail explaining that I was writing a pro-Ukraine/anti-Putin article and the objective was to help explain why we, the U.S. as a nation, needed to step in.
I asked what he would say to the American people if he had the podium. His response was but one word… “Why?”
Kostya speaks very little English, and I speak even less Ukrainian, so we have always communicated via a third language we can both converse in. I thought maybe I was unclear in my translation so I tried again, and I asked for clarification.
Again, he responded with: “Why?”
Then went on: “Why didn’t you come when we called when the Russians first came? You didn’t come when we needed you, so why now?”; “it is too late to help; so don’t bother to write your damn article; it will mean nothing.”
“This is just a repeat of Budapest… You bastards did it again!”
“You want a message to the American people from Ukraine for your article? Here it is”;
“You Bastards!… YOU DID IT AGAIN!”
Well, thank you, Kostya for negating three days’ worth of research and writing. The “Repeat of Budapest” reference goes back to a story I told him 30+ years ago. He knew exactly where to put the blade and how far to stick it; he knew it would sting. That’s why he said it.
It was in the mid ’80s, I was on my 4th or 5th hot run into Eastern Europe. Our purpose had been completed, but we had to hang out in-country until our visas expired. Leaving early was just not a good idea, so we usually ended a trip with 4 or 5 days of vacation.
There was still always a chance of getting marked and flopped by local A.V.O. agent, (Allamvedelmi Osztaly – Hungarian KGB) or KGB. We were very careful to avoid alcohol, bars, women and anything that was not wholesome touristy activity during these waiting periods. The safest activity was to go to a museum and Budapest has excellent museums.
My Executive Officer and travel partner, Heiney, and I were in the industrial section of the Palace Museum around noon on our last day in country (Please, try not to make fun of his name it is short for Heinrich, and he was a better man than I will ever be – I miss him). We were greeted by an old Hungarian who appeared to be both janitor and manager of the display we were looking at.
It was a factory scene with small children and women working sewing machines. The foreground had vintage factory equipment you could walk around and in between. It had the effect of making the machines blend in with the mural to complete the illusion of a 19th-century factory.
The old Hungarian almost blended into the background and startled me when he spoke. “You are from the West, Ja? Deutschland? Österreich?” I was on a US passport so I told him I was American. “Amerikaner? Hmmm;” he seemed both puzzled and impressed.
He kind of smiled for a moment then it turned into a look of disappointment and profound sadness. He looked at me again and asked: “Why didn’t you come?”
”Now it is too late,” he got real quiet. You could see his mind taking him for a walk through his past. He asked again: “Why didn’t anyone come?” “We were sure you would come, but you never came.”
“Why didn’t who come?” I asked, and the old man began his story. He told me how the communist had taken power, but there was still a group of patriots, including him, who hoped that Hungary might fall under allied rule after WW2, and when it did not… they resisted.
It gave them hope when the US moved into Austria; when General Bradley lined up the 3rd Armor Division on the Austrian border and told Stalin to stay the hell out of Yugoslavia unless he was up for a fight. The old Hungarian said they knew the US would come to their aid if they just stood and fought.
You see this is what we were once known for, not nation-building. The old man’s voice lowered to a whisper, ”but… You never came… why?” His lip quivered, and a tear appeared then he turned away and left me standing there. I was silent; I didn’t have an answer. I wiped the tear.
I still don’t have an answer, and I am still ashamed we didn’t come. Few people know me like the ones with whom I have walked in the dark. Kostya knew how I would react to his words last night and he is right… We did it again.
I didn’t answer Kostya’s last e-mail. I’m not sure I will, at least not just yet. We have been colleagues and friends long enough that I am sure he understands. My friend remembers how I confided in him years ago that I was ashamed of what my country failed to do, in Budapest in 1956.
What is the UNited States thinking?
Is our word nothing?
Do the “American” values I was taught as a child no longer have merit. Don’t be so quick to point your finger and assign blame. It is not just incompetence in the highest office; this is a problem that has become both endemic and epidemic to our government’s entire approach to the world.
In the old days, back when the enemy was easier to identify, the Soviets and Americans had one diametric commonality: Both strived to dominate the world with their political values. The Soviets did it with oppression and military power.
We tried to do it by planting the seeds of liberty and letting it flourish and bloom even when it blooms into a political flower with an aroma we find offensive. As a Republic, we have learned it is much harder to dominate the world with freedom than it is to do it with tyranny.
We are at a disadvantage. A disadvantage we once overcame by learning to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Like most of you, I take extreme pride in knowing I was a part of that big stick.
A few of you just mumbled – “It’s not our war”…
OK, tell that to the Marines who stormed Derna, raised our Colors, and gave us “the shores of Tripoli.” – Was that our war?
How about the men who fought their way into the castle at Chapultepec and gave us the “Halls of Montezuma.” – Was that our war?
Or how about when The Deuce (82nd Airborne) went into the Dominican Republic in ‘65 then again into Grenada and Panama in the 80’s. – Were those our wars?
Many of you went to Iraq or Afghanistan, and I won’t even try to infer some of the bizarre places our Special Ops guys have slept at night. – Are these our wars?
Is anyone out there seeing a pattern here?
If so, help me answer Kostya’s question: Why is Ukraine not worthy of our friendship; why is it not worth keeping our word to them? When any government official makes a promise, they are doing it as our proxy. If they do not keep their word, they are breaking our word also. I’m not OK with this. My word means something.
Here are a few things you might not know about Ukraine.
- Ukraine was on our side in WW2
- Ukrainian anti-communists were a major asset to NATO in the Cold War.
- NATO was poised to grant membership to Ukraine but Russia pressured Germany and France to block it.
- In accordance with the 1994 Budapest Memorandums; Ukraine agreed to give up all their leftover Soviet Nukes as a precursor to NATO membership. The US supported membership and brokered the disarmament.
- The US withdrew support for Ukraine’s NATO membership and ceased to take part, resulting in Ukraine membership being denied.
- Ukraine had already given up their weapons at the request of NATO thinking the US would follow through and they would be under the protection of NATO.
- Ukraine is part of the coalition in Iraq and has sustained the 5th most casualties behind the US, UK, Italy – (18 KIA)
Ukraine is, in fact, an ally, a friend, a good neighbor and a business partner to our republic. A Soviet thug is slapping the piss out of her in front of the US, and as a nation, we sit on our hands. I am also not OK with this.
So far we have sent 75 million dollars worth of supplies to an Army that has no bullets to fight with, and the legislative branch has elected to send even more. Do you know what is happening to this Non-lethal support once it arrives?
According to Kostya and sources in Mariinka and Luhansk; The Russians and their local militias take it, and it becomes part of the Russian supply system. It is cheaper than buying it and transporting it themselves.
Again you say; “IT’S NOT OUR WAR!” Are you sure?
When you are the Biggest Baddest MoFo in the neighborhood, and you see some thug slapping one of the old women in the neighborhood around… If you have any honor… If there is any integrity in you…
You go kick some ass and make damn sure it is known that you will not stand by and merely observe next time either.
“It is not so much the severity of punishment as it is its certainty which is effective.” – Judge Issac Parker
For most of my life, it was the surety that WE would come kick some ass that kept the world’s tyrants in check. They are now free to do as they intend while we “nation build.”
It is too late for Crimea – Putin owns that now, but Ukraine still had a chance – I’m not so sure now. SHAME – ON – US.
My original article and conclusion are still valid but are incomplete and sophomoric in light of my old friend’s words. Again, my role as but one of the blind men describing the elephant is made clear to me.