Voices from the Past
As the presidential election draws nearer, who will be the next president of the United States is on almost everyone’s mind, not only in the United States, but throughout the world, and, in particular in Ukraine. President Trump’s lack of vocal affinity for Ukraine and Ukrainians while heaping praise on Ukraine’s enemy during his term of office is well known emphasized best perhaps by his comment that he likes Putin and Putin likes him. Even his surrogates have been less than congenial towards Ukraine among them his chief diplomat who if nothing else should at least have learned to be diplomatic. Secretary of State Pompeo’s statement that nobody cares about Ukraine was disgraceful.
However, lest anyone think that President Trump’s negativity towards Ukraine or affinity towards Putin was not deeply ingrained let me offer as a reminder several statements from Donald Trump the candidate for President dating back to 2016 and Joe Biden the Vice President dating back to his term at the White House:
On Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at a press conference Trump commented on allegations of Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee e-mails:
Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.
On Sunday, July 31, 2016 on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos Trump responded to Stephanopoulos’ query why Trump had softened the GOP platform on Ukraine removing the call for providing lethal weapons for Ukraine to defend itself:
He’s (Putin-AL) not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.
Regarding the Russian annexation of Crimea, Trump said:
I’m going to take a look at it. But, you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that also.
On Wednesday, September 7, 2016 in an interview with Matt Lauer on the USS Intrepid Trump praised Putin:
Well, he (Putin-AL) does have an 82% approval rating, according to the different pollsters, who, by the way, some of them are based right here.
If he (Putin-AL) says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, oh, isn’t that a terrible thing – the man has very strong control over a country.
These quotes are not taken out of context. They have not been redacted or explained by Trump and, in fact, Trump has on more than a few occasions confirmed this position. He has often boasted that Putin has called him brilliant, although the Russian word used by Putin “yarkii” is probably best translated as flamboyant.
Trump misconstruing and then gloating that Putin had called him a genius has been trivialized by some as Trump simply acting as a child or a buffoon. Trump may be both.
Highly respected conservative columnist and commentator George Will wrote the following opinion entitled “Trump’s shallowness runs deep” in The Washington Post after Mr. Trump’s performance with Mr. Stephanopoulos:
What Winston Churchill said about an adversary – “He spoke without a note, and almost without a point” – can be said of Donald Trump, but this might be unfair to him. His speeches are, of course, syntactical train wrecks, but there might be method to his madness. He rarely finishes a sentence (“Believe me!” does not count), but perhaps he is not the scatterbrain he has so successfully contrived to appear. Maybe he actually is a sly rascal, cunningly in pursuit of immunity through profusion.
On the other hand dating back to his time as Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden has for a long time been favorably disposed. During the notorious Russian reset of the Obama administration engineered by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in 2009, Joe Biden remained a devoted friend to Ukraine:
As we reset the relationship with Russia, we reaffirm our commitment to an independent Ukraine. And we recognize no sphere of influence, or no ability of any other nation to veto the choices an independent nation makes as to with whom and under what conditions they will associate. We also do not believe in zero-sum thinking. We do not believe that a partnership with one nation must come at the expense of another. It has not. It does not, and it will not…We reject the notion of spheres of influence as 19th century ideas that have no place in the 21st century. And we stand by the principle that sovereign states have a right to make their own decisions, to chart their own foreign policy, to choose their own alliances. President Obama, in his speech in Moscow two weeks ago, strongly affirmed this principle…We also re-affirmed the security assurances that the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom provided Ukraine in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum…Ukraine has also been a leader in what President Obama and I believe is our greatest security challenge — the greatest security challenge that is facing the world — and that is reducing the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, renewing the non-proliferation system, and securing vulnerable nuclear fissile material…The United States also supports Ukraine’s deepening ties to NATO and to the European Union….
Not unlike his friend Senator John McCain, Vice President vocalized his admiration for Ukrainians as late as January 17, 2017 one week before the end of his term at the White House:
I have been inspired by the people of Ukraine, their courage, their resilience, brave Ukrainians who never gave up hope for a future of something better, who get u and go to work every day for a democratic and united Ukraine.
Think about it and then vote your conscience. The choice has never been more stark.
October 18, 2020 Askold S. Lozynskyj