bildt110_YEKATERINA SHTUKINAAFP via Getty Images_putinmedvedev Yekaterina Shtukina/AFP via Getty Images

Why Ukraine Matters

Although Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has walked back recent remarks claiming that America has no important stake in the outcome of Russia's war against Ukraine, the damage has been done. All Western politicians would do well to consider Russian leaders' own statements about their goal in launching the war.

STOCKHOLM – Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis – a prospective US presidential candidate – recently created a stir by describing Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine as a mere “territorial dispute” that does not bear on America’s core strategic interests. Following immediate, heavy criticism and a drop in his approval numbers, DeSantis sought to roll back his remarks. But the argument remains in circulation, and DeSantis is hardly the only one peddling it.

History can help us sort out whether there is any merit to DeSantis’s description of the conflict. Did Adolf Hitler have a “territorial dispute” with Poland when he launched his blitzkrieg against his neighbor in September 1939? Hitler himself sometimes framed matters in these terms, such as when he spoke of his duty to protect German speakers in Poland. But such rhetoric was always just a smokescreen to divert attention from the real objective. Hitler wanted to eliminate the independent Poland that had re-emerged after World War I, thereby paving the way for Germany’s eastward expansion.

One should always be careful with historical parallels, of course; but the similarities between Hitler in 1939 and Russian President Vladimir Putin today are obvious. Where Hitler expressed concern for German speakers in Danzig, Putin does the same for Russian speakers in Donbas. In both cases, no one is fooled. Putin has stated explicitly that he sees Ukraine as comprising “historically Russian lands,” and that Vladimir Lenin made a profound political mistake by allowing a Ukrainian state to emerge after World War I. (He might also have condemned Joseph Stalin, who allowed Soviet Ukraine to be a founding member of the United Nations after World War II.)

To continue reading, register now.

Subscribe now for unlimited access to everything PS has to offer.


As a registered user, you can enjoy more PS content every month – for free.