BRAMA, Nov 29, 2004, 12:00 am ET|
A Line in the Sand - Bush vs. Putin
By Michael Balahutrak
When faced with the Cuban Missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy made an historic decision, which continues to define his international legacy: he forced the Kremlin to withdraw its nuclear missiles from Cuba. In so doing, Mr. Kennedy protected the vital security interests of the United States and checked Moscow's brazen attempt to expand its imperial influence. The president's decision also forced Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev to deal with Kennedy as a worthy champion of liberty.
Will President George W. Bush now stand up to Russia's blatant imperial overreach in Ukraine? Will Mr. Bush protect America's interest in the spread of democracy and free markets?
While the President has touted good relations with his Russian counterpart, it is clear that Vladimir Putin financed and actively campaigned on behalf of an authoritarian candidate whose supporters stole the election. Rampant voting violations were confirmed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, whom Mr. Bush sent as his personal emissary to monitor the Ukrainian election. Now there are reports that Russia is sending troops to Ukraine to protect its ill-gotten electoral conquest, a military intervention that differs from the Cuban Missile Crisis in degree, but not kind.
The European Union and NATO have condemned the authoritarian power grab in Ukraine. Individual European leaders have also publicly voiced their objections and called for Mr. Putin to stop violating its neighbor's sovereignty.
The situation in Ukraine provides George W. Bush with an historic opportunity to defend the gains freedom has been making around the world against those who hate what it stands for - free media, free markets, and free elections. This means not only advancing the cause of liberty in Iraq, but also making certain it does not retreat in the former Soviet Union. As an advocate of Ukrainian liberty, the president would also gain international stature and could mend fences with European leaders.
The Bush administration is to be applauded for statements thus far involving Senator Lugar and Secretary of State Colin Powell. However, Mr. Bush must spend some of his political capital with the Kremlin to make clear that the United States is not advancing liberty in Iraq just to see it retreat in Ukraine. As American soldiers lay down their lives for freedom in the sands of Iraq, Mr. Bush must understand that Russia has historically drawn other lines in the sand for the United States. A generation ago, the line was in Cuba. Today, it is in Ukraine. If Mr. Bush fails to stand up to the Kremlin over the travesty in Ukraine, how can the people of Iraq believe his assurance that their election will be free and fair?