Jeanette Strong: ‘Never again’: Just empty words?

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“For decades, world leaders bowed their heads at war memorials across Europe and solemnly proclaimed: ‘Never again.’ The time has come to prove those were not empty words. Russia has unleashed war in Europe out of hateful expansionism. History will judge each one of us later on how we faced this evil.” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian foreign minister, March 7, 2022

On Feb. 24, President Vladimir Putin of Russia ordered the Russian military to launch an invasion into the sovereign nation of Ukraine. Despite Putin’s claims, there was no justification for this action.
In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine declared its independence and officially established its borders on Nov. 4, 1991. Since then, Ukraine has been recognized as an independent, sovereign nation.

In 2014, Putin invaded and annexed Crimea, an autonomous part of Ukraine. Using Crimea as a base, Putin began a huge military build-up. He also declared parts of Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, to be independent states. Putin asserted that Ukraine was part of Russia and had no right to exist independently. This was his rationalization for the invasion.

Russia’s current invasion is igniting memories of Hitler’s aggression in World War II. Dmytro Kuleba, quoted above, reminded the world, “The last time Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities faced such a brutal military aggression was in the early hours of June 22, 1941, when Hitler launched his Soviet invasion, Operation Barbarossa.” (Washington Post, March 7, 2022)

The vast majority of the world’s nations are unified in their goal to stop Putin. He is killing civilians and bombing hospitals, schools, churches, apartment buildings, etc., actions universally recognized as war crimes, to further his ambition to restore the Soviet Union. Ukraine is just the first step.

The countries around Ukraine recognize this. Lithuania, a Baltic state, was formerly part of the Soviet Union. It became independent in 1991 and joined NATO and the European Union in 2004.

The president of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda, called for an active response to Putin’s invasion: “Russia’s reckless aggression against Ukraine once again proves that it is a long-term threat to European security, the security of our alliance…. Putin will not stop in Ukraine if he will not be stopped.” (Reno Gazette Journal, March 8, 2022)

Americans, with most of the rest of the world, have expressed support for Ukraine. We’ve said we are willing to help this young democracy to keep it from being eradicated. One poll said 77 percent of Americans are willing to experience higher gas prices in order to support the sanctions against Russia.

We know we can do this. In a previous column, (Jan. 26, “Is this vaccine necessary?”), I described some of the restrictions Americans endured during World War II to ensure we won. For example, we accepted gas rationing so the military could receive what it needed.

Lives are being destroyed in Ukraine. Real people are dying. The U.S. is not actively involved in the war, but there are actions we can take, such as supporting sanctions, to help the Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom. Sadly, some Americans find the idea of sacrifice too hard when faced with reality.

We hear right-wingers bleat about fighting for freedom. They protest life-saving government mandates, claiming government is restricting their freedom.

They praise truckers who drive pointlessly in circles, with unspecified demands. They push to carry guns into polling places to make sure people vote the “correct” way. When the supermarket has only 15 types of bread instead of 20, they cry our country is being destroyed. They are happy to be faux patriots, until it comes to real sacrifice.

In Ukraine, people are starving because they have no bread. Children are dying of thirst because there’s no water. Mothers and babies and sick children are dying because hospitals are being bombed and there’s no electricity or medicines. Husbands and fathers are sending their families to safety so the men can fight. And we complain because gas is getting expensive.

High gas prices are serious, but if we think about what the Ukrainians are enduring, it should help put things in perspective. If we believe in freedom, we believe in freedom for everyone, not just a few privileged Americans. Freedom is more than just mouthing platitudes. Freedom is worth sacrificing for. If we aren’t willing to pay the price, we prove how little we actually value freedom.

“History will judge each one of us later on how we faced this evil.” How will Americans be judged? That’s up to us.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at


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