One of the wonders of life is that the worst of times often bring out the best in people.
The U.S. Marshall Plan, a massive aid package funded by American taxpayers, helped rebuild Western Europe after the ruin of World War II. The devastating famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s led to Live Aid, which helped raise awareness and money to assist with relief. The millions of lives lost around the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the development of mRNA technology, which has the potential to also prevent and cure other diseases.
So it is with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine late last month. The first military incursion onto the soil of a democracy by another country since the end of World War II is becoming bloodier by the day. Putin has even put Russia’s nuclear arsenal on high alert, meaning he is apparently willing to use the ultimate weapon.
And yet, hope abounds.
Ukrainians have fought back fiercely, bravely and creatively with an effectiveness that has apparently shocked Putin and inspired the world. The quick and relatively painless Russian victory that was expected has not yet materialized.
Putin’s actions have breathed life into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which had been wobbling. NATO members are providing military support to Ukraine while also fortifying the borders of the Baltic states and Poland.
United States intelligence agencies have scored a huge and important success by accurately predicting that Putin would invade, as well as the timing of his invasion. U.S. intelligence pulled the curtain back on Putin’s would-be Wizard of Oz, who was hoping to fool much of the world into believing his propaganda that the invasion was actually defensive.
Social media and the Voice of America are helping inform not just Ukrainians but also Russians about Putin’s true actions. Media reports indicate that Russian citizens are shocked at the extent of Russian casualties and the fierceness with which Ukrainians are defending their homeland.
There’s even cause to hope that Putin’s action against Ukraine could have planted the seeds of his own downfall.
A Wall Street Journal report indicated that Russian oligarchs are beginning to speak out against the invasion, as they feel the impact of economic sanctions aimed at their wealth. Putin’s control rests on support from these oligarchs and the military. Do Russia’s current military leaders have the stomach to slaughter tens of thousands of Ukrainians who are merely defending their country?
The solidarity people from around the world have expressed for Ukrainians has been extraordinary. Individuals are adopting the Ukrainian flag in their social media tags and protests are taking place in front of Russian embassies worldwide. Cities like Alexandria have shown their solidarity by projecting the Ukrainian flag onto their most iconic buildings, such as the George Washington Masonic Temple and the city hall building in Market Square.
Alexandria is a city of immigrants, as evidenced by the more than 100 nationalities represented at Alexandria City High School. Each immigrant came here for their own reason, generally for economic or educational opportunities and greater freedom. It’s important to remember that Alexandria is home to not only Ukrainians, but also Russian immigrants, who came here for the same opportunities. They are not to blame for the actions of Vladimir Putin.
Vive la Ukraine.