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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Heather Cox Richardson: Letters from an American

Courtesy of HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, Letters from an American

Two years ago today, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky made a passionate plea to the people of Russia, begging them to avoid war. He gave the speech in Russian, his own primary language, and, reminding Russians of their shared border and history, told them to “listen to the voice of reason”: Ukrainians want peace.  

“You’ve been told I’m going to bomb Donbass,” he said. “Bomb what? The Donetsk stadium where the locals and I cheered for our team at Euro 2012? The bar where we drank when they lost? Luhansk, where my best friend’s mom lives?” Zelensky tried to make the human cost of this conflict clear. Observers lauded the speech and contrasted its statesmanship with the ramblings in which Putin had recently engaged.

And yet Zelensky’s speech stood only as a marker. Early the next day, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” involving dozens of missile strikes on Ukrainian cities before dawn. He claimed in a statement that was transparently false that he needed to defend the people in the “new republics” within Ukraine that he had recognized two days before from “persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime.” He called for “demilitarization” of Ukraine, demanding that soldiers lay down their weapons and saying that any bloodshed would be on their hands. 

Putin called for the murder of Ukrainian leaders in the executive branch and parliament and intended to seize or kill those involved in the 2014 Maidan Revolution, which sought to turn the country away from Russia and toward a democratic government within Europe, and which itself prompted a Russian invasion. He planned for his troops to seize Ukraine’s electric, heating, and financial systems so the people would have to do as he wished. The operation was intended to be lightning fast.

But rather than collapsing, Ukrainians held firm. The day after Russia invaded, Zelensky and his cabinet recorded a video in Kyiv. “We are all here,” he said. “Our  soldiers are here. The citizens are here, and we are here. We will defend our independence…. Glory to Ukraine!” When the United States offered the next day to transport Zelensky outside the country, where he could lead a government in exile, he responded:

“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

That statement echoes powerfully two years later as Ukraine continues to stand against Russia’s invasion but now quite literally needs ammunition, as MAGA Republicans in Congress are refusing to take up a $95 billion national security supplemental measure that would provide aid to Ukraine. 

Instead, Republicans spent the day insisting that they do not oppose in vitro fertilization, the popular reproductive healthcare measure that the Alabama Supreme Court last Friday endangered by deciding that a fertilized human egg was a child—what they called an “extrauterine” child—and that people can be held legally responsible for destroying them. Since the decision, Alabama healthcare centers have halted their IVF programs out of fear of prosecution for their handling of embryos. 

Republicans who oppose abortion have embraced the idea that life begins at conception, an argument that leads naturally to the definition of IVF embryos as children. But this presents an enormous problem for Republicans, whose antiabortion stance is already creating warning signs for 2024. Today a memo from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) noted that 86% of the people they polled support increased, not reduced, access to IVF procedures.

The good news for the Republicans is that their frantic defense of IVF means that the media has largely stopped talking about the news of just two days ago, the fact that the man whose testimony congressional Republicans relied on to launch an impeachment process against President Joe Biden turned out to be working with Russian operatives. House leaders have quietly deleted from their House Impeachment website the Russian disinformation that previously was central to their case against Biden. 

But today, as Republican House members remain on vacation, President Biden announced new sanctions against Russia, and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was in Ukraine, where he challenged House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to pass the national security supplemental bill. “The weight of history is on his shoulders,” Schumer told reporters in Lviv. “If he turns his back on history, he will regret it in future years.”

“Two years,” Ukraine president Zelensky wrote today. “We are all here…. Together with representatives of Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Egypt, Estonia, the EU, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Türkiye, the UAE, the United Kingdom, the USA, Viet Nam, as well as international organisations….”

Slava Ukraini.


















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