Nicholas Kristof, whose parents were from West Ukraine, went to the home of his parents to get their perspective on the present conflict.
The kids here learn English and flirt in low-cut bluejeans. They listen to Rihanna, AC/DC and Taylor Swift. They have crushes on George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, watch “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” and play Grand Theft Auto. The school here has computers and an Internet connection, which kids use to watch YouTube and join Facebook. Many expect to get jobs in Italy or Spain — perhaps even America.His conclusion:
“We feel our souls are European,” Margaryta Maminchuk, 16, told me. “That is why we are part of Europe’s future.” The village school, which is in my great-uncle’s old family mansion, invited me to speak to an assembly, and I asked the students how many identified as European. Nearly all raised their hands.
Ukrainians hope to avoid a war with Russia that they know they would lose. But many believe deeply that their futures depend on reorienting their country to the West. That they won’t compromise on.
“We love your culture, and we want to be part of you,” one man from Donetsk told me, almost beseechingly. “If you abandon us, we will never forgive you.”
The problem is, there are plenty of people in the East who are just as adamant that they want to be a part of Russia and want no part of the impending austerity that is about to hit home. One of the men killed in the skirmish earlier today was a well-liked bus driver who was willing to give his life for that ideal.
This is why Ukraine could very well become partitioned. The East could either become the Republic of Donetsk or become absorbed into Russia. The West could become a rump state totally dependent on the West for survival.
The ideal solution would be for the West and Russia to jointly aid Ukraine following the upcoming elections and for Ukraine to become a neutral federation and one that is not aligned with either the West or Russia. The West would be free to pursue ties with Europe while the East would be free to pursue ties with Russia. But for this deal to work, Ukraine has to be able to govern. Ambassador Geoff Pyatt said today that Ukraine was outgunned militarily.
Ukraine’s military is woefully underarmed and without modern equipment and training, but Pyatt said the United States is not providing Ukraine armament, only support and non-lethal aid.Some parallels can be made between the South Vietnamese Army and the present Ukrainian Army. The ARVN was widely perceived as the scapegoat for the conflict in Vietnam. Robert Brigham wrote a book about them eight years ago.
“Ukraine is outgunned,” he said. “But our efforts have been focused on diplomacy, focused on economic support.”
Offering keen insights into ARVN veterans’ lives as both soldiers and devout kinsmen, Brigham reveals what they thought about their American allies, their Communist enemies, and their own government. He describes the conscription policy that forced these men into the army for indefinite periods with a shameful lack of training and battlefield preparation and examines how soldiers felt about barracks life in provinces far from their homes. He also explores the cultural causes of the ARVN’s estrangement from the government and describes key military engagements that defined the achievements, failures, and limitations of the ARVN as a fighting force. Along the way, he explodes some of the myths about ARVN soldiers’ cowardice, corruption, and lack of patriotism that have made the ARVN the scapegoat for America’s defeat.The West does not want to see East Ukraine fall into Russian hands. But if Ukraine's army is not willing to fight to protect its country, then there is nothing stopping Putin from invading if he wants to. And given our past history in Vietnam, if the country we are trying to prop up is not willing to take the steps necessary to defend itself, then there is nothing we can do to defend it.
Ultimately, as Brigham shows, without any real political commitment to a divided Vietnam or vision for the future, the ARVN retreated into a subnational culture that redefined the war’s meaning: saving their families. His fascinating book gives us a fuller understanding not only of the Vietnam War but also of the problems associated with U.S. nation building through military intervention.