Why should we care about Ukraine?
To the Editor:
Cory Vaillancourt’s March 30 roundup of what WCU professors have to say about the war in the Ukraine (“The messiest story you can have”) was fascinating. Particularly enlightening was Associate Professor David Dorondo’s response to students complaining about ever higher gas prices exacerbated by the conflict: “Remember, you’ll still get your gas. You’ll still get to go home ... and have electricity … and be alive in the morning.” Mr. Dorondo then added that fleeing Ukrainian refugees don’t have those guarantees.
My response is: so what? Professor Dorondo’s salary is more than $66,000 a year, which you can find by checking a state website. That’s four times what I make as a clerk in a secondhand bookstore. I can’t afford to pay more for gas to help people on the far side of the world who have the misfortune to live between the former German and Russian empires. Speaking of which, your reporter didn’t mention that one of Professor Dorondo’s areas of expertise was the German cavalry. In any case, I want to order his book, “Riders of the Apocalypse: German Cavalry and Modern Warfare, 1870-1945.” But does he also lose sleep over what’s going on in the Yemen, inflicted by our ally, Saudi Arabia? It makes Ukraine look like a Rotary picnic.
The truth is, it doesn’t affect regular Americans what Putin does or doesn’t do in the lands covered in the 1918 Brest-Litovsk treaty. Those here who are most concerned — and think a war with Russia might be worth it — include government officials and diplomats whose “expertise” is said to be in that part of the world, or those whose ancestors hail from that area or they themselves were born there (e.g., Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Under Secretary Victoria Nuland, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Col. Alexander Vindman). Plus, we’ve got our own garden-variety, saber-rattling fantasists including the entire U.S. Senate, who hope foreign posturing will make us forget their utter mediocrity.
They can’t imagine not caring about Eastern Europe, but I can. Putin’s writ could run to the English Channel and it wouldn’t make me materially worse off. If Europe won’t pay to defend itself, why should we? NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Is Ukraine getting salt breezes from that Ocean? Romania? And if you want to talk about Munich 1938, bring it on. Neither “Munich” nor “balance of power” mean anything in the age of nuclear weapons.