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Ukrainian American Bar Association

Commentary on: DONALD TRUMP’S RECENT REMARKS ON UKRAINE

01 Apr 2016 5:32 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

DONALD TRUMP’S RECENT REMARKS ON UKRAINE

Donald Trump’s recent remarks regarding Ukraine [and his self – professed friendship with Putin] brings into sharp focus a foreign policy philosophy that is isolationist in nature and totally disinterested in Ukraine’s future.  It is a recent re-manifestation of a philosophical undercurrent in American political thought that Ukraine and its people do not matter.  This is precisely the myopic foreign policy that the Ukrainian American community has been combating for well over a century.  One would think that the Ukrainian American Diaspora would vehemently condemn this fundamental assault on its basic core values.  However, this dangerous isolationist rhetoric has been met – with a few exceptions -  with deafening silence from the Ukrainian American media, its intellectual and political elite, and its community organizations as if they were mesmerized by some irresistible gravitational political force. 

There are those that argue that the Ukrainian American organizations and media should not be publicly critical of these remarks since that would constitute political partisanship.  Accordingly, such actions should only be taken by individuals on their own personal behalf.

I most respectfully disagree. One must distinguish between criticizing a flawed parochial foreign-policy position on the one hand, and opposing a particular politician or political party on the other. 

Throughout its history, the Ukrainian American organizations and media have openly and stridently criticized and opposed certain American foreign-policy positions that were viewed as detrimental to Ukraine and its people. In large part, the Ukrainian-American organizations and media have always viewed their duty as precisely that – to effect a pro Ukrainian foreign policy in Washington and to counter Soviet/Russian influence and propaganda.  Examples are legion.  After WWI, Ukrainian-American organizations and media lobbied for the US to recognize Ukraine as an independent state.  In the 1930’s, they shouted for the American government to stop the Holodomor Genocide.  In the 1970s and 80s, they were in the vanguard in contending that it was in America’s foreign policy interest to strongly support human rights in the Soviet Union and to support dissidents such as the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.  The Ukrainian American community submitted various position papers to the White House and testimony to Congress pointing out that US policy was woefully lackluster in this regard.  Also, in the 1980s, the Ukrainian Diaspora criticized US policy in deporting Ukrainian refugees who sought safe haven in America. Nor should we forget the vociferous Ukrainian Diaspora organizational and media outcry in response to the “Chicken Kyiv” speech! 

In the first decade of this century, the Ukrainian Diaspora continually advocated for a strong US policy of support for Ukraine’s continued independence - especially so, during the Orange Revolution and criticized American politicians when they failed to do so.  In the past 7 years, the Ukrainian Diaspora organizations and media have consistently, continually - and very vocally - criticized American foreign-policy vis-à-vis Ukraine.  The criticism ranged from America’s abandonment of its obligations under the Budapest Memorandum to the present Administration’s absolute refusal to supply military weapons to Ukraine that were authorized by Congress.

These criticisms were made irrespective of the party in power in Congress or which president was sitting in the White House.  By its actions, the Ukrainian Diaspora organizations and media were not supporting any particular politician or political party, but were opposing a foreign policy ideology that was deemed severely detrimental to the fundamental beliefs of the Ukrainian American community and also to the foreign policy interests and security of Americans.

The issue before us is not whether we support or oppose Trump or any other candidate for president of either political party. The question is not about Trump – it is about Ukraine’s independence and the future of its people – and the future of the United States as well.  The issue is simply whether the Ukrainian Diaspora organizations, media and political elite are going to fulfill their moral obligations and stridently oppose an isolationist foreign policy philosophy that, if implemented, will most assuredly alter Europe and catapult Ukraine back into the orbit of Moscow for the next hundred years without any hope of escape.  Or, is the Ukrainian Diaspora going to now meekly abandon its traditional moral obligations, and blindly follow the siren tunes of political pied pipers into subservient muteness and idly sit on the wayside of history, “lost in time, space, and meaning”?

Myroslaw Smorodsky   March 30, 2016

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author

 

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