During the last weekend of the summer, my wife Eva and I traveled to Rehoboth Beach, Del., where, by chance, sitting on the sand next to us was a couple speaking Polish. Since Eva and I speak Polish, we struck up a conversation and found much to talk about – travels in Europe, books and culture. Jan and Beata came to the U.S. in the early 1980s, became U.S. citizens and found good employment with the U.S. government as scientists. Before they came to the U.S., they lived in Socialist Poland. Inevitably the conversation drifted to politics and Donald Trump. In no time, they made it known how much they loathed him as a person. Mixing colorful Polish expletives, they thought he is a vulgar boor whose behavior is outlandish, who lacks the diplomatic skills essential for a president of a superpower.
Then came the bombshell. As much as they disliked his personality, they will vote for Mr. Trump and explained why:
He reversed the Obama/Biden administration’s colossal blunder by placing in Poland anti-missile Patriot defense systems and deployed 8,000 U.S. and NATO troops to NATO’s eastern flank bordering Ukraine, sending Vladimir Putin a powerful message as to where the U.S. stood vis-a-vis Russia.
We were also unnerved by the plundering and vandalism instigated by Antifa and Black Lives Matter. As our cities were burning, the Democratic party not only refused to condemn the riots, their silence in effect encouraged the mayhem. It is also obvious that Joe Biden is merely a Trojan horse for launching a socialist agenda promoted by the extremist wing of the Democratic Party. When the radicals get power, events will move quickly, and before you can blink, the U.S.A. would turn into the Socialist States of America. All the signs are there: create chaos and anarchy, defund the police, denigrate free-market capitalism, restrict free speech through political correctness, censorship and cancel culture. We have seen it all in Poland, in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Jan pointed to another disturbing development: Where I work, if one does not conform with the PC dogma, he is playing with fire. Even more shocking, he continued, is the phenomenon of “anonymous denunciations” I’ve witnessed where I work. If I dare express a politically incorrect view on any number of issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage or gender equality, I risk my career. This is exactly the way it was in Communist Poland, the German Democratic Republic and everywhere where Marxists came to power. You had to parrot the party line; otherwise, you were ostracized and marginalized, and only those who have lived under communism are able to recognize what’s coming.
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Many Ukrainian Americans undoubtedly share Jan and Beata’s worldview, while others insist on ignoring the obvious. The latter judge President Trump by focusing on his personality and unusual behavior. Such one-dimensional assessment of the president blinds one to other salient aspects which cannot be ignored: (1) his actions as regards Ukraine and Russia, and (2) the fact that Trump is an obstacle to the socialist agenda radical progressives have in store for the U.S.
In the words of many experts, no administration since the end of the Cold War has been “tougher on Russia” and helpful to Ukraine than the Trump administration. From that standpoint, Mr. Biden’s “promise” to give Ukraine lethal weapons is a day late and a dollar short. That train has left the station. Mr. Trump armed Ukraine with 360 Javelin anti-tank missiles capable of destroying three-quarters of Russian tanks in the Donbas and, more recently, the sale of 16 of America’s most advanced and fastest patrol boats with ordnance capable of destroying or disabling much of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
But that is not all. The Trump administration pushed European countries to add $130 billion to NATO’s defense budget, effectively reviving the organization. He opposed Mr. Putin’s No. 1 project – Nord Stream 2; opened up Ukraine’s ability to purchase or receive advanced armaments and equipment from NATO and other U.S.-allied countries; allowed large-scale military air, sea and ground training and exercises in Ukraine with NATO forces to enhance integration; reassigned a U.S. Stryker brigade to a naval base near the Black Sea, and tightened expanded sanctions on Russia. Taken together, all these actions directly or indirectly enhanced Ukraine’s national security – acts that the Obama/Biden administration would never have countenanced for fear of provoking Mr. Putin.
In this context, the often-cited explanation that Ukraine got lethal weapons “despite Trump” has been debunked and discredited. Congressional support was there during the Obama administration, for the “Support of Ukraine Act” was passed in late 2014. Lethal weapons to Ukraine at that time would have made a crucial difference, but Mr. Obama – fearing provoking Mr. Putin – threw Ukraine under the bus and vetoed their delivery, as Mr. Biden sheepishly stood by, and Congress did not even try to override the veto. But when Mr. Trump signed off on the Javelins, the argument was that he did so because Congress would have overridden his veto. That argumentation is blatantly inconsistent; you can’t have it both ways.
In any event, the Trump administration delivered enough Javelins to make Mr. Putin think twice about infiltrating Ukraine any further.
These are not the actions of someone who has it in for Ukraine or is beholden to Russia. Though Congress had appropriated funds for Ukraine’s national security, it is improbable that all these decisions would or could have been made without Mr. Trump’s knowledge and approval. Whereas Mr. Trump could flatly assert that, under his presidency, Mr. Putin “is never going into Ukraine… you can mark it down,” the Obama/Biden administration cannot escape partial responsibility for the loss of Crimea, Mr. Putin’s subsequent invasion of the Donbas, and the “mess” and lives that it cost.
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Lastly, many of the Ukrainian Trump haters seem to have forgotten why our parents and grandparents came to America. Did they flee from the shackles of Socialism and Communism only to have a repeat performance in the United States? Today the specter of Socialism over America is real. The November elections, therefore, will not be about Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump; they will be about the future direction of America and our way of life. We will be choosing between a free-market democracy that has served our nation well for a quarter of a millennium and something resembling a coercive socialist utopia our families have fled.
With Donald Trump, we know what we are getting. Joe Biden, on the other hand, would merely be the façade for an administration, fully backed by both houses of Congress, with an agenda that would seriously damage the nation. The corrosive left-wing extremism of 2020 would be ascendant. Mr. Trump, for all his flaws, could be all that stands between an imperfect democracy and the tyranny of the woke left.
Once again, we should note the disparity between the words and actions of the two candidates. While Mr. Trump’s words were soft on Russia and dismissive of Ukraine, he nevertheless pushed back on Russia and supported Ukraine with his actions. Mr. Biden, on the other hand, kept reassuring that the U.S. “had Ukraine’s back” but appears to have overlooked Ukraine’s “front”(line). Despite the support of the secretaries of defense and state, who urged arming Ukraine and a harder line with Russia, he failed Ukraine. It was a Democrat administration that – once again (as was the case frequently in the past) – appeased Russia and sacrificed Ukraine.
Jaroslaw Martyniuk is a former diplomat and Principal Administrator with the International Energy Agency/Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris and a retired researcher affiliated with Radio Liberty in Munich and Washington.