I try to resist the American tendency to choose sides in foreign conflicts I don’t understand. But I can’t help but sympathize with Ukrainians who want their country to be free of Russian influence.
I know the history of how Joseph Stalin killed millions of Ukrainians, including targeted killings and deportations of prosperous farmers (kulaks) and an intentional famine to force Ukrainians into government-controlled collective farms. I remember the happiness of my Ukrainian-American acquaintances in Rochester, NY, when the Soviet Union broke up and Ukraine became a sovereign nation.
But the maps above show why the Russian government would not tolerate a hostile Ukraine. Russia cannot compete as an industrial nation with the advanced economies of Europe, North America and the Far East. Its economy is dependent on exports of oil and gas from Siberia and Central Asia. The maps show how many of Russia’s vital gas pipelines to Russia go through Ukraine.
I believe that, as a general rule with very few exceptions, the United States government should not interfere in the internal conflicts of foreign nations. I think interference in the Ukrainian conflict would be especially unwise because it would be a challenge to the vital interests of the only country in the world that, because of its nuclear arsenal, has the capability of destroying the United States.
My father always used to say that you should never start a fight you weren’t prepared to finish. There’s something worse than that, which is to encourage others to start fights they can’t finish in the false expectation that you will help them. I remember how in 1956 the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe encouraged the Hungarians to rise up against their Soviet occupiers (I was in basic training in the U.S. Army at the time) when the U.S. government had no intention of coming to their aid and risking a nuclear confrontation with the USSR.
I thought then that it was shameful to give the Hungarian Freedom Fighters the false hope that Americans would come to their aid. I think it would be equally shameful to give the same false hope to any of the Ukrainian factions.
I think blog posts by Rod Dreher and Daniel Larison of The American Conservative (both of them Eastern Orthodox Christians, by the way) show good sense. Dreher is noteworthy, too, for the excellent comment threads on his posts.