In the now-celebrated tiff with an NPR reporter, Mike Pompeo remarked, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” This did not set well with former ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, and he penned a scathing rebuttal of Pompeo’s callous comment. It’s just one more example of a career diplomat knowing far more than the lame brains that Donald Trump keeps appointing to high posts for which they are unqualified — as he himself is unqualified. Taylor minces no words in describing the threat that Russia poses, which underlies American-Ukraine foreign policy — or did, pre-Trump. New York Times:
Mr. Putin seems to want to return to the law of the jungle that characterized relations among nations for centuries before 1945, where powerful nations dominated and invaded less powerful nations, where nations established spheres of influence that oppressed neighbors, leading to war and suffering. That was how the Russian Empire and Soviet Union conducted international relations — dominate, control and absorb neighboring lands. A return to jungle rules threatens not just Ukraine and the United States, but global stability itself.
Then Taylor goes on to give Pompeo a tutorial on how things stand in Ukraine and the surrounding region.
On the energy battlefield, the Kremlin is trying to bypass Ukraine and increase German and European dependence on Russia by spending billions on an unnecessary underwater natural gas pipeline, a political project without economic justification. In another show of bipartisan political support for Ukraine, Congress late last year passed sanctions on companies attempting to complete the pipeline, forcing a significant delay in the project.
Russia’s hybrid war is also an information war. Starting at home, Russian media is dominated by the state, leading its citizens to believe they are under threat from a hostile West and convincing them that President Vladimir Putin protects them from corrupt enemies. Russia’s trolls and internet hackers target Ukrainian, European and American political and social fault lines, exaggerating differences and fomenting dissension. They seek to weaken Western alliances, undermine confidence in democratic institutions, and turn citizens against citizens. We and other NATO allies are working with Ukraine to counter this malign influence.
That’s about as basic as it gets, but with a sitting president who maligns our NATO allies as deadbeats, there’s a better than 50/50 chance that Pompeo doesn’t know even this much. It’s a cinch that Trump doesn’t.
Then Taylor bottom-lines it: Russia is out to attack democracy, plain and simple.
Until Russia withdraws from Ukraine — both Donbas and Crimea — and recognizes that Ukraine is an independent, sovereign nation, other nations cannot be secure. Until Russia recommits to a rules-based international order, Western nations are in jeopardy. Ukraine is the front line.
In an even broader sense, Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the West is an attack on democracy. The question of how nations govern themselves — democracy versus autocracy — is being fought out among and within nations. Russia, China, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, the Philippines, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria — all are autocracies, all are unfree. In the contest between democracies and autocracies, the contest between freedom and unfreedom, Ukraine is the front line.
Yes, Secretary Pompeo, Americans who are awake and even moderately informed do care about Ukraine. Ukraine is key to our national security because it is the front line in the attack against the West by Russia. “If Ukraine succeeds, we succeed,” says Taylor. Likewise, if Ukraine goes under, we’re just that much more jeopardized and compromised. Career diplomats and experts in foreign affairs like Bill Taylor and Marie Yovanovich get these basic principles and they were instrumental in seeing that American foreign policy in Ukraine was carried out accordingly. That was before the advent of Trump and Pompeo. Trump’s only interest in Ukraine, insanely, is to use it to proselytize conspiracy theory and hurt Joe Biden. Pompeo has been complicit in this endeavor, to his everlasting shame. It is time that the ignorant and self-seeking Trump administration takes a hike so that America can go back to being America in the eyes of the world — and that doesn’t mean being a willing pawn of Vladimir Putin in his quest for global domination.