Editor, The Beacon:

In a letter to the editor of The Beacon (Jan. 19-25), Sheldon Skolfield justifies Russia’s attack on Ukraine on grounds of historical context.

“Ukraine was part of the USSR,” he wrote. “Its borders have not historically been clearly defined. Trade and exchange have marked the recent past.”

By that logic, Mexico has equal claim to Texas and all the Western territory the U.S. annexed following the 1846-48 Mexican War with the U.S. We must be grateful that Mexico lacks the capacity and power to enforce that claim.

On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia attacked Ukraine, and with it the rules-based international order. That order was established with U.S. leadership after World War II and has been modulated for nearly eight decades by the United Nations.

It has helped to maintain a measure of peace in Europe and the world at large by providing a forum for the resolution of international disputes without violence. The rules-based international order is far from perfect, but it prevented the outbreak of violent great-power conflict in Europe for almost the entire span of my life, from 1945 until 2022.

Mr. Skolfield’s letter includes numerous statements, unsupported by evidence, about the conflict. Following are the facts, which I found with an hour or two of Google research:

Ukraine declared its independence on Aug. 24, 1991. The declaration was overwhelmingly approved by 92.3 percent of Ukraine’s voters in a referendum on Dec. 1, 1991. Even Crimea voted in the referendum for independence from Russia. Since Dec. 2, 1991, more than 130 states, including Russia, have recognized Ukraine’s independence.

Responding to Russia’s aggression, on March 2, 2022, an emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution deploring the invasion of Ukraine and demanded a full withdrawal of Russian forces. The resolution was sponsored by 96 countries, and passed with 141 voting in favor, five against, and 35 abstentions.

That vote affirmed the international community’s view that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a gross violation of international law. The U.N. General Assembly’s resolution states that parties to a conflict are required “to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.”

The Russian invasion has plunged the Ukrainian state and people in an ocean of war crimes. Russia’s conduct of the war has been characterized by the murder of civilians, looting of cultural treasures, and destruction of civilian infrastructure. The U.N. refugee agency has recorded nearly 8 million refugees from Ukraine across Europe, the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War II.

Russia’s attack on the rules-based order is a throwback to the era when states built empires by attacking their neighbors on the shabbiest pretext. Mr. Skolfield deplored the comparison of “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine with the German Nazi invasion of Poland,” but that comparison is undeniably accurate. President Putin himself has stated his desire to restore the Russian empire by absorbing Ukraine, which once was part of the Russian empire.

Ninety years ago, the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s policy of collectivization and efforts to snuff out Ukrainian independence precipitated a famine. An estimated 4 million Ukrainians died within two years, according to NPR news, and some historians say the toll may have been significantly higher. Ukraine calls it a genocide, and nearly 20 other countries now agree.

Now, finally, the people of Ukraine have voted for independence. They are resisting Russia’s violent attempt to subjugate them.

Mr. Skolfield concludes his letter by asserting that “War is the ultimate evil!” On that point, we agree, but Ukraine is defending itself in a war initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Self-defense is the right of the innocent. The burden of guilt belongs to the aggressor.

Mr. Skolfield calls for defunding “a pointless war with no realistic goals.” I cannot agree on that. Ukraine is defending itself with awe-inspiring motivation, courage and grit aided by weapons and war matériel supplies from Western allies. The West is providing the support because if Russia succeeds in dismantling the international order that has maintained relative peace in the world since 1945, we will return to the unstable era that culminated in World War II. And this time, the major combatants will be armed with nuclear weapons.

Tom Armistead




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here