In Part I, entitled Ukraine and the United States Rule of Law, March 3, 2022, I stated that “Our [Moral Rule of] Law says we must do everything we can, within moral boundaries ourselves. . . and in concert with other principled nations, to stop another genocide of the Ukrainian people.” With no claim of comprehensiveness, it might be helpful to review from a greater historic distance, some of the reasons why we are in the situation we are in today in that part of the world.
Just as the United States was a junior partner to Europe for most of the 19th century, America came to be recognized around the turn of the 20th century as the leading technological power of the day. Major American industrialists had perfected efficient manufacture, and in conjunction with the ingrained values of the American character, we were a very productive society.
The Russian Revolution just after WWI had a slightly romantic patina for many Americans. Lenin sought to marry the Russian Revolution with foreign technology labeled “Taylorism” after the time-management American specialist Frederick W. Taylor. Many in America felt a kindred spirit with Russian aspirations.
American experts were hired. Technical books were translated and used as guides to quickly industrialize the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Dozens of engineers and specialists were excited to go to the Soviet Union and help bring about a better life for the Russian people. It was to be done quickly; the leadership in the USSR knew they were light years behind the West.
Henry Ford became a hero in Russia. 85% of the trucks and tractors sent there were Fords. In 1929 Ford sent plans for the Model A, replacing the Model T, as American firms supplied the steel, and the heavy equipment for manufacture, in addition to the engineers and other technicians. Instead of going slow and learning, the leadership of the USSR tried to import whole systems at once.
Electrification became an obsession. A huge hydroelectric facility was built on the Dnieper River in Ukraine under the direction of Hugh Cooper, its chief engineer. General Electric, Westinghouse, General Motors, Averell Harriman & Company, Chase National Bank and others all participated in an America-Russian Chamber of Commerce to promote the rise of Soviet industry.
So thrilled was the USSR with this project that Mr. Cooper received the Order of the Red Star from the host country. It would not be long before the USSR surpassed the United States, it was hoped by Stalin, and Communism would replace capitalism worldwide.
This is the background of the political system Ukraine was a part of.
Soviet leaders Lenin, Trotsky, and especially Joseph Stalin tried to impose a highly industrialized standard on a very backward nation. Whole teams from Ford Motor Company came to train rural peasants in the use and maintenance of the tractor. It didn’t work. The tractors did not hold up under peasant neglect and lack of spare parts.
Stalin wanted more and more machinery to create manufacturing at home and paid for the machines with ever-increasing quotas of wheat, mostly from Ukraine. When the peasants couldn’t keep up, Stalin unleashed a famine on the population that killed millions of people.
Secret Soviet police then created a narrative of a capitalist counter-revolution. Ukrainian intellectuals and professionals were rounded up and shot or deported. Ukrainian churches were closed; Ukrainian clergy were sent to concentration camps; and the head prelate, Vasyl Lypkivsky, was martyred. What was left of the Ukrainian people became docile slaves of the State.
In his very thorough book entitled, Freedom Betrayed, Herbert Hoover documents the decisions of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to overlook Stalin’s atrocities, and to subsequently embrace Stalin as an allied partner in WWII – 1939-1945. Hoover’s explanation: “Mr. Roosevelt wanted to cover up the failure of the New Deal . . . to cover up the scandals of the New Deal, and for that purpose he entangled himself in world power politics as a diversion of public mind.” He was also surrounded by intense advocates for Stalin in federal bureaucracies. American assets poured into the USSR.
How does this history help us understand the crisis we are in today?
- Good intentions are no substitute for reality. America “hoping” that Stalin would be an honorable leader for his people and a friend of America did not materialize. Giving Stalin atomic secrets did not bind an ally, it empowered an enemy. The same is true today for Putin and Xi. “Hoping” is naive.
- Not all peoples are the same. Sophisticated concepts and their implementation in governance take hold in societies over time with the right leadership. America was blessed that in its earliest days, that leadership was there. We are blessed, too, that competency, industriousness, and morals are still valued by many Americans.
- Adhering to the US Constitution and its required processes is still the best way to avoid the mammoth miscalculations of American politicians, who often think – incorrectly – that the end justifies the means. In FDR’s case, the death and destruction that he caused in unnecessary war has cascaded throughout the world and has given rise to untold human suffering.
The Ukrainian people, by some miracle, have chosen their own brand of Liberty in spite of what happened to them historically and what is happening to them now. They are willing to fight and die for their national integrity and independence. Thought still docile by Putin, Ukrainians have emerged resilient under Russian attack.
We must not forget – Russia signed a pledge in 1994 not to invade Ukraine. Russia broke her word. The world must not let Ukraine fall.