Despite all the media attention devoted to it, Russia’s incursion into Ukraine poses no threat to the United States.  Soviet Russia was a mortal threat to the United States because she embodied a communist ideology with aspirations of global hegemony.  The threat died with that ideology, which is why Americans who believe that the goal of U.S. foreign policy should be the advancement of American interests have been virtually unanimous in the belief that America should not intervene in the dispute between Moscow and Kiev.

Vladimir Putin clearly believes that the goal of Russian foreign policy should be the advancement of Russian interests.  There is little doubt that Putin has done a better job governing Russia than did the hapless Boris Yeltsin or the succession of communist tyrants who preceded him.  Putin’s rhetoric is also blessedly free of the globalist cant that has come to characterize our own leaders’ rhetoric.  These facts have caused many conservatives to profess a guarded admiration of the former KGB officer, and others to embrace an ardent Russophilia.  But the fact that Russia is no longer a threat to us and that Putin is no globalist does not mean that Russia is always in the right.  Russia was a threat to her neighbors long before Lenin plunged the country into a profound darkness that would last seven decades.

Many conservatives have adopted the Kremlin’s argument that the Ukrainians who toppled the Yanukovych government are “Nazis” or “fascists.”  But such terms hardly describe the millions of Ukrainians who do not want Russia to dominate Ukraine and who were appalled by Yanukovych’s conspicuous corruption.  (The corruption that characterizes Ukraine and most of the post-Soviet world vindicates conservative arguments against communism, since this corruption is largely the result of the destruction of civil society and public morality that accompanied communist rule.)  It is true that the most violent protestors in Kiev admire the Ukrainian guerillas who took advantage of the chaos unleashed by World War II to engage in an horrific campaign of ethnic cleansing of Poles and Jews in what is now Western Ukraine.  But those violent protestors were not the only Ukrainians to embrace objectionable elements from Ukraine’s past.  Even as Western and Central Ukrainians were toppling dozens of monuments to Lenin, pro-Yanukovych Ukrainians were rallying around statues of Lenin and wearing the orange and black symbolizing the Soviet victory in World War II, a war that was made possible by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and that both began and ended with Soviet aggression against her neighbors and mass deportations to the Gulag.  Conservatives should not need reminding that World War II saw the defeat of one unspeakable evil and the triumph of another.

Notably absent has been any attempt to explain why Ukrainians might not want to be under Russian control.  There has been virtually no mention of Stalin’s terror famine in the 1930’s that killed millions of Ukrainians, an atrocity that was motivated in part by the desire to squelch Ukrainian nationalism of the type that had resisted Bolshevik rule.  There has been no mention of the Soviet repression of Western Ukraine, such as the forcible suppression of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, outlawed by Stalin in 1946.  Stalin sent all Ukrainian Catholic bishops and priests unwilling to convert to Russian Orthodoxy to the Gulag, and gave the Church’s property to the Russian Orthodox Church.  Until 1989, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was the largest underground religious body in the world.  In this, Stalin was merely following well-established czarist precedent.

Russia’s neighbors seem more concerned by the prospect of Moscow using its military might to impose its will on its neighbors than by the specter of Nazis in Kiev.  The prime ministers of Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary issued a statement:

The Visegrad countries believe that the recent military actions by Russia are not only in violation of international law, but also create a dangerous new reality in Europe.  The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are appalled to witness a military intervention in 21st century Europe akin to their own experiences in 1956, 1968 and 1981.

Each of these countries is an ally of the United States, and their people are very pro-American, remembering our role in the Cold War with gratitude.  Poland and Slovakia remain very religious, and Hungary’s new constitution both embraces Hungary’s Christian heritage and recognizes that marriage is between a man and a woman and that life begins at conception.  In their eagerness to embrace Putin, American conservatives should not forget those nations that both suffered under Russian rule and still cherish much of what we do.