Do the Right Thing, America

Do the Right Thing, America

A little over two years ago, in the dead of a quiet night in late February 2022, pretty much every journalist in Ukraine was wide awake.

We were staring into our laptops in the dark. Updating news feeds every other minute. Looking at U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance aircraft wiggling over Ukraine and scanning the border with Belarus north of Kyiv and the Donbas front in the east.

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Yours truly was quietly sipping whiskey in the gloom of his poor rented apartment in northwest Kyiv. 

We knew the day of all days was coming. And then, the face of Vladimir Putin of Russia twisted with sadistic glee in anticipation of the coming triumph going live on TV screens. “I have made a decision to carry out a special military operation,” he said. “And whoever stands in our way must know that Russia’s reaction will be immediate, and bring down upon them consequences never seen before in your history.”

The rolling thunder of missiles was soon heard from all quarters of the Ukrainian capital. TV channels broadcast live video of gigantic plumes of fire over Ukrainian cities. And endless convoys of trucks and armored vehicles marked Z and V breaking through along most of the Ukrainian border. The unthinkable—the most catastrophic European war of aggression since Adolf Hitler—had begun.

I often go back to those early days of the Battle of Kyiv. Even more so this week amid a showdown in the U.S. Congress over $60 billion in military aid to my country.

Bach in February 2022, we were all alone. What little Western military materiel we possessed had been sent to us via an air bridge from the free world in the final weeks, or even just days, before the invasion. It was supposed to be our nation’s doomsday. 

Yet no words can do justice to the unbelievable spiritual uprising of those days. So many men and women decided not to go down easy. The Ukrainian military came to life, ambushing and devastating gargantuan Russian columns advancing over woodland roads toward Kyiv.

Ukrainians stubbornly remained in the semi-surrounded capital to fulfill their duty. Businesses fed vulnerable elders and delivered meals from their restaurants to military units defending Kyiv. Many people volunteered to bring medicine and essentials to war-affected suburbs. Even more tied yellow tape around their sleeves, grabbed their hunting rifles, and self-organized into Territorial Defense units. 

It was awe inspiring to witness regular people lining up to get Kalashnikov rifles from the police or preparing Molotovs in Kyiv’s Obolon to fight the invaders coming for their homes. Many, including me, moved their loved ones out of harm’s way and then got back to Kyiv out of a moral duty we’d never felt before.

Those we had elected to lead us recorded videos of themselves standing together in the Kyiv government quarter. Their message to the nation: “We are all here, defending our Fatherland.”

Read More: Inside Zelensky’s World

It was the final stand of the finest hour. The very same hour about which old Winston Churchill had once intoned in World War II. And as you know, against expectations, Ukraine prevailed in that battle.

What followed was the hell of a full-scale, prolonged war against one of the world’s most formidable military powers—and the dictator who could not come to terms with his shocking failure. 

It’s been just over two years since the beginning of the Battle of Kyiv. Since then, Ukraine liberated half of its territory lost to Russia after 2022 and set off a whole range of hallmark events. The gargantuan Battle of Donbas. The liberation of Kherson. The stunning operation in Kharkiv Oblast. The Russian navy’s debacle in the Black Sea. The rise of drones as the next level of modern warfare.

Ukraine did not go it alone. Entire nations overcame their fears and hesitation and became our strong backers in war—Britain, and Germany, grappling all along with their own history, and so many other nations as well, united behind the crystal-clear vision of the horrifying threat of Russian aggression.

In victories and setbacks, here we are now—an independent nation in control of 80% of our sovereign territory, mourning our dead, sending our gratitude to friends, and grasping at any straw to carry on. We survive as a nation thanks to that moral choice of doing what is right.

Millions of men and women do so every day as they fight back in a terrible and uneven battle against the aggressor, or as they raise funds to buy FPV drones for the outgunned military, or as they work hard to keep Ukraine’s shattered wartime economy afloat.

But right now, we see America heartbreakingly fractured and in disarray over Ukraine aid. Hand on heart, knowing what America has always been and stood for, that was the last thing we in Ukraine expected. 

As friends and willing partners, we Ukrainians ask the Republicans who are vocal opponents of aid to drop their obstructionism. Because, to quote Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who took a surprise trip to Ukraine last month, “history is looking down upon you, looking over your shoulder,” he said in Kyiv. “Rise to the occasion.”

We hope that America does the right thing. It is not too late yet.

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