“The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” The Budapest Memorandum, 1994.
That obligation was broken by the Russian Federation in the 2014 annexation of Crimea and now the 2022 full-scale invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. This is not the first time that Russians have sought to eliminate the Ukrainian people. Here is that story:
In 1922 when Joseph Stalin came to power in the Soviet Union he instigated a series of plans to try and bring his Communist empire into the modernized industrial world. As in all Communist societies he was not above killing people to get them to the enviable position in society that he had in mind for them.
The Ukrainian villages were home to very industrious and independent people who grew the wheat and rye that became the instrument of payment by Stalin for the industrial equipment needed to bring the empire into parity with the West as quickly as possible. Wheat for machines; more wheat for machines; all the wheat for machines.
The resistant Ukrainian farms were collectivized. The grain quotas kept increasing. There were no working tractors. There was unrest as the poor and middle peasantry resisted efforts to take from them what they had worked so hard to obtain – a little land of their own – a culture of their own – solid families of their own – a religion of their own.
At first, troublesome persons were simply deported to faraway corners of the Soviet Union with nothing but the clothes on their backs. All their property was confiscated. “[Peasants] were unloaded into the snow about six feet deep. The frost registered at 75 degrees below zero . . . Without even an axe or a saw [they] began building huts from tree branches.” The Great Famine of 1932-33, Bohdan Krawchenko. Most froze to death.
By 1932, the quotas for each Ukrainian family amounted to essentially 100% of what they grew. Stalin left no grain for the farmer and his family. Seed grain was taken, as well. Armed brigades took every morsel of food. Anyone attempting to retain or steal a sack of wheat was shot by a firing squad.
The Terror-Famine had begun. Subjugating the independent-minded Ukrainian became public policy. The children and elderly died right away. Some parents killed their children to keep them from suffering and then killed themselves from the guilt. Orphans sat in ditches and awaited death. The streets were littered with the emaciated bodies of grown men and women. Cannibalism emerged.
The West noticed. International relief efforts were attempted. Stalin let it be known that relief was unnecessary as the famine was nothing more than Western propaganda to embarrass the great Soviet Union. Of the most talented and intelligent Ukrainians, 80% were purged by deportation, starvation, or firing squad. Estimates of the final death toll are just estimates. At least 4.5 to 6 million people died.
Once before, in 1921, Lenin made an appeal to the United States for relief from famine. Then Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, provided that relief and the Soviet Union acknowledged that twenty million lives had been saved. Stalin came to power the very next year. In 1933, at the height of the Ukrainian genocide, America recognized the Soviet Union.
So, here we are again – more of the same story. A shattered Budapest Memorandum. A destructive Russian invasion. Assassination squads to decapitate the Ukrainian government. A Holocaust survivor, in her nineties, was arrested in Russia for objecting to the slaughter. An elderly Ukrainian woman was crushed in her car by a Russian tank that may have deliberately crossed a highway to run over her.
The world is in a state of shock and of fear. We dare not arm the Ukrainians after the invasion of Crimea and risk upsetting Putin, it is thought. We dare not help with air cover lest we start WWIII, all agree. Russia cares more than we do, so a well-known TV pundit tells us. We have no national interest in Ukraine, announces a hysterical conservative cable host.
What does the American Rule of Law say?
It says that Moral Law, right versus wrong, is our highest governing principle and our most important bundle of Law. Our Law says we must do everything we can, within moral boundaries ourselves (calling for “taking out” Putin is not within those boundaries), and in concert with other principled nations, to stop another genocide of the Ukrainian people. We must not only do the right thing we must refrain from doing the wrong thing. We cannot purchase 6 billion dollars of Russian oil per day and comply with Moral Law.
The United States is funding this Russian invasion. Every Ukrainian death is paid for with American dollars.
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Upper Hell has a Vestibule. It is filled with persons Dante calls Opportunists. These are persons who are neither faithful nor unfaithful, good nor evil, decisive nor indecisive, principled nor unprincipled, who take no stands, one way or another.
Dante sees them running around aimlessly waving a banner being stung by bees and hornets for eternity. They merit no classification. Hearing their cries and wails, Dante asks his guide, “[What] souls are these . . .?” [The answer] “These are the nearly soulless whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise. . .Mercy and Justice deny them even a name.” Dante describes their plight. “These wretches . . .ran naked in a swarm of wasps and hornets that goaded them the more the more they fled, and made their faces stream with bloody gouts of pus and tears that dribbled to their feet to be swallowed there by loathsome worms and maggots.”
A detached America is beginning to feel Dante’s sting – the Vestibule awaits us.