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Ukraine in the Crosshairs: Its Ongoing Turbulent Relationship with Russia

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On Tuesday, Acton’s Todd Huizinga took part in a West Michigan World Trade Association panel discussion on “US and EU Sanctions on Russia: How They Affect You.” He was joined by three other panelists who focused respectively on the legal, economic, and political ramifications of the current Russian/Ukrainian conflict and the sanctions it has evoked.

Though each of the panelists focused on a different angle of the conflict, a common thread emerged: the desire of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his political regime to return Russia to a position of dominance on the world stage.

Signaling this desire for increased power was the Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory, Crimea, in March and its military intervention in Ukraine thereafter, among other events. While these are significant actions in their own right, they also serve a broader purpose in drawing attention from the international community. As Huizinga stated, “they test Western resolve to act.”

But this resolve, on the part of the United States in particular, has been quite weak so far. As Huizinga explains, one factor in this is “a seeming psychological desire of the United States to put the Cold War behind us and move on, a desire to make Russia into a constructive partner as a fellow permanent member of the UN Security Council.” The Security Council establishes and votes on binding resolutions affecting all UN member states.

Regarding the United States and European Union’s approach to Russian intervention in Ukraine, Huizinga poses a difficult yet important question, “What are the costs to the US, EU and NATO of letting Russia force Ukraine to remain in Russia’s orbit?”

Ukraine is no stranger to the effects of Russian/Soviet tyranny within its borders. Its long and cruel history under Soviet Communism reveals the potential high cost of allowing Russia free-reign over Ukraine. Annually in November, Ukrainians remember the brutal, man-made famine imposed on their country by Joseph Stalin’s Communist regime in the 1930s. This tragedy, which became known as the “Holodomor” (“death by hunger”), resulted from the regime’s effort to eliminate Ukraine’s independent farmers in order to collectivize the agricultural process. It amounted to an assault on human dignity, private property, and religious freedom, and is estimated to have claimed, through murder and forced starvation, the lives of almost 7 million Ukrainians.

In an effort to expose this largely unknown chapter of Ukrainian history and the corrupt ideology which caused it, the Acton Institute will host an evening combined lecture and art event on November 6 titled, “The Famine Remembered: Lessons from Ukraine’s Holodomor and Soviet Communism.” The presentation will feature Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art’s education committee chair, Luba Markewycz. Markewycz will share the Ukrainian children’s art exhibit she commissioned, “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child.” Gregg will discuss the historical context and the ways in which the Holodomor amounted to an assault on basic human dignity and individual and religious liberties.

We invite you to come learn about this important part of history and see it depicted through children’s art. For more information and to register, please visit the event webpage.

While the current Ukrainian/Russian conflict is still unfolding and the eventual outcome of Russian actions in Ukraine is unknown, history represents clearly the dangers of allowing excessive power and tyranny to reign. At this point we can only wonder what further Western response will entail, but hope that prudence will be exercised and an informed decision reached.

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Matthea Brandenburg Matthea works on the Acton Institute's PovertyCure initiative. She graduated from Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, MI) in 2012 with a B.A. in Political Science and German.

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