Ukraine: A defining moment for Western civilization and liberty

Russian President Vladimir Putin is without a doubt one of the luckiest rascals alive. Putin has risen to power at a time when the leaders of the West seem less than courageous. He has invaded a sovereign nation, Ukraine, and with a military force, under the guise of “democratic elections” is poised to annex a vital portion of Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula.

Of course, this is not the first time western powers have stood in confrontation with Russia over the Crimea.

From 1853 to 1856, Russia fought against a coalition of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia over the rights of Christians in the Holy Land, then controlled by the Ottoman Empire. France supported the Catholics, while Russia supported the Orthodox. But the larger issue was the continued decline of the Ottoman Empire, which Britain and France did not want to see further reduced at the hands of the Russians. Russia lost.

Students of history and literature may remember the Crimean War for the “Charge of the Light Brigade” led by Lord Cardigan at the Battle of Balaclava against the Russians on October 25, 1864 – captured in the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, in the first stanza;

“Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.”

Now, more than a century later, in the face of this bold incursion and threat to freedom and liberty, will the west stand?

Vladimir Putin tends to believe not, and those countries bordering Ukraine and Russia are rightly concerned. Putin has stated that his goal is to protect “ethnic Russians “ – but we’ve heard that before in history regarding the Sudetenland and “ethnic Germans.” Then it was Czechoslovakia, the belligerent was Adolf Hitler, and the appeaser was Sir Neville Chamberlain.

History has a funny way of repeating itself: Hitler’s incursion came after an Olympics as well.

It is once again a defining moment for Western civilization and liberty. If a response to Putin’s actions is not swift, bold, and decisive with unity, then his strategic plan will move into the next phase.

Of course the liberal progressives would say, “Wait! You’re advocating a ground war?” My response is I’m not advocating it, but I would wholeheartedly make certain Vladimir Putin, as well as other despots and dictators, believe that if necessary, naked aggression would be met on the battlefield — and that option would remain open.

We should never convey that “military action is off the table,” because tyrants like Putin take it as a green light.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the surrender of US military capability and capacity on a Monday. By the end of the week, Russian troops were in Crimea. Yes, we should leverage all aspects of national power: diplomatic, informational, economic – but we must never allow the enemy to believe we’re not willing to fight.

Putin seeks to rebuild the wall that Ronald Reagan demanded be torn down. It was Reagan whose strategy was based on the deterrent capability of “peace through strength.” It is now Barack Hussein Obama who promotes the idea of “peace through submission.”

Weakness is enticing for bullies, and there are times when talk is indeed cheap.

If the Western world does not find its collective courage and stand up against Vladimir Putin, we will only have ourselves to blame. We will find ourselves abandoning the same people to whom we gave courage to stand against the Soviet Union not too long ago. We will signal to others that the cause of liberty and freedom has been lost.

Let us remember these words from President John F. Kennedy, to steel our resolve and bolster our courage, for this is the beginning of a new Cold War, a new crisis:

“Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom. The cause of liberty, the cause of America, cannot succeed with any lesser effort.”

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge–and more.”

At this defining moment, we sorely need a committed leader and a defender of liberty and freedom cut from such a cloth.

Allen B. West is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with 22 years of active duty service, former Member of Congress, and Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.

Posted in Commentary