Yshai Amichai
Yshai AmichaiCourtesy

While it is true that Russia invaded Ukraine with its armies, and now Ukraine is bitterly resisting the Russian invasion and occupation of its territory, that is not the whole story.

The West invaded Ukraine first, not with its armies, but with its ideology.

Ukraine was a part of Russia for hundreds of years. Russians consider Ukraine their historic heartland, dating back to the medieval Kievan Rus’, which they consider the origin of their people.

Ethnic Ukrainians are not Russians, but both are East Slavs, who, together with Belarus, branched off from Kievan Rus’. The Ukrainian language is also distinct from Russian, but both are East Slavic languages that branched from the Old East Slavic of Kievan Rus’.

Most Ukrainians and Russians are Eastern Orthodox Christians. If religion was their defining ideology, they would be closely aligned. In the past it was communism, but that has since collapsed. In the absence of a common ideology, they have drifted apart. The West has been able to drive a wedge between them.

Liberalism vs. Communism

The West has been waging an ideological war with Russia since the end of WWII. The Western ideology espouses a liberal democracy with a capitalist system (liberalism). The Russian ideology was communism.

It was not clear in the past that liberalism would prevail. Russia succeeded in exporting its ideology and converting country after country in its global advance. Americans feared the West would be converted as well, even America itself. They were willing to send troops to fight brutal wars against communism.

The Korean War was a good example of this. In 1950, The US sent a massive army to invade North Korea and halt the advance of communism to the south. After fighting alongside the Chinese to defeat fascism in the Pacific theater of WWII in 1945, communism overran mainland China in 1949. The next year, in 1950, Americans were already fighting the Chinese in Korea.

The Vietnam War, which began as the First Indochina War in 1946, is another example. Vietnam revolted against French colonialism, but North Vietnam sought to replace French rule with communism, and take over South Vietnam, backed by both Russia and China.

After the French were defeated, America stepped in. The more troops America sent, the more the North Vietnamese resisted. America was unwilling to accept the spread of communism in the Far East, but North Vietnam was unwilling to submit to the West, and as soon as American troops withdrew, it overran the south, with many Vietnamese attempting to flee any way they could.

Once converted to an ideology, it is hard for people to change. They view their ideology as an integral and sanctified part of themselves, to be defended with their lives. They are willing to take sides and invade faraway lands in “defense” of their ideology, burning towns with their occupants to the ground, or to resist forced conversion by accepting death and brutal warfare instead.

Closer to Home

An example closer to home is Cuba, which turned communist beginning in 1959. The US made many failed attempts to halt Cuba’s fall to communism, including a small-scale invasion in 1961.

Ultimately, America was forced to reconcile with the fact that communism had set up camp off its shores. Despite its proximity, there was little strategic value in conquering this impoverished Caribbean Island nation. America could isolate it instead.

That assessment changed drastically when Cuba closely aligned itself with Soviet Russia and requested that nuclear missiles be placed in its territory to protect it from a US invasion. America was unwilling to accept that Cuba should become a Russian forward base against it, suddenly willing to go to war over Cuba, even at the risk of a nuclear war with Russia.

Perhaps this is what Russian President Vladimir Putin had in mind months ago when he threatened to go to war over Ukraine. Russia had backed down over Cuba. Putin likely expected the US to do the same in Ukraine. But the West continued to entertain the idea of Ukraine joining NATO and ignored Russia’s request of guarantees to the contrary.

NATO is a Western alliance that was formed to combat the Soviet Union. The expansion of NATO into territory previously controlled by Russia, especially at a time when Russia is no longer the communist state it was in the past, is a reckless display of Western hostility. It showed Russia that the West, while feigning to be its new friend, is still holding a dagger to its neck.

Ukraine is Not Cuba

When speaking of Ukraine, there is little comparison to Cuba. While both are close to home, Ukraine is of far greater strategic and cultural value to Russia than Cuba was to America. In fact, Cuba had almost no strategic or cultural value to America, and yet America was willing to invade it.

Ukraine, for Russia, more closely resembles Canada, in its importance to the US. Imagine if communism had spread to Canada instead of Cuba. Would that not have called for a US invasion?

In fact, Putin compared the Russian-Ukrainian relationship to US-Canada relations, in an article published in July 2021. Were Canada to turn against the US, as Ukraine has against Russia, I’m sure that Americans would express similar sentiments.

Lack of an Ideology

The difference is that Russia, these days, lacks a clear ideology. Its government seems to espouse a feigned version of liberalism.

Putin sometimes says things that appeal to conservative Americans, but he has consolidated his rule like a despot. Putin stamped out the opposition and granted favors to those who support him. Such actions are not in line with liberalism.

The Russian Federation has fit in better with nations that feign democracy to receive favors from the West; nations that are usually tolerated until their leaders become too ambitious. Putin dreams of the glory of Soviet days, but he lacks the ideology to rally other nations behind him.

Instead, Russia focuses on its own nationalism and expects other nations to support it. Ukraine drifted away because of this. Russia was the big brother that bragged about how it can protect Ukraine, while holding it on a tight leash and demanding protection payments.

Ukrainians realized that the West had more to offer, including an ideology that caught their attention. This made it easy for the West to convert them.

How can Russia win Ukraine back now? Either by conquering it and stamping out all opposition, or by fostering a new ideology that might catch its attention. Putin seems to be aware of this dilemma.

In a Trump-style stadium rally held last Friday, Putin uncharacteristically quoted Christian scripture. Might this be Putin’s attempt to test the waters for the spread of an ideology? It might be hard for Putin to reinvent himself this way. It is more likely for someone new to sweep Russia off its feet and spread a new ideology that could gravely threaten the world.

At the same time, Putin has begun removing dissident Ukrainians from territory under Russian occupation, likely taking them to remote areas of Russia where they cannot pose a problem to him. This seems to fit the more pragmatic goal of stamping out the opposition. We are likely to see more of this in the future.

What This Means for Us

The West made a mistake by treating Russia and Putin like the Soviet Union of the Cold War. The situation in Ukraine could have easily been diffused had Biden acted more like President Trump and played down the importance of NATO, toning down the anti-Russian rhetoric.

There was little benefit to the West in converting Ukraine to liberalism or encouraging their anti-Russian sentiments. Russia was not the threat that it was in the past. Now it is. The West, together with Ukraine, seem to be attempting to revive the monster that it was.

A vicious war is already being fought in Europe, and the West is pumping the flames with weapons, sanctions, and hostile words. The West, with its media, is turning Russia against us. A Russia with massive amounts of nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles to deliver them while evading our defenses.

Is this worth it?

Let Ukraine accept that it had already lost some territory to Russia years ago, inhabited largely by ethnic Russians. Let them make that territory independent republics influenced by Russia.

Let Ukraine remain an independent and nonaligned nation, banned from NATO and the EU. They should not hope for more in the future, after years of bloody conflict. It is only more likely that Russia will absorb and disperse them as the war rages on.

If the West intervenes militarily, it will only strengthen Russian resolve, making Russia further out of reach to the West, pushing it in the direction of an alliance with China and as a massive pariah state, far beyond those of North Korea or Iran. Are we willing to accept that?

The West could get involved militarily in Ukraine, but to little avail. An invasion of Russia seems out of the question. Russia, due to its terrain and climate, is exceptionally hard to conquer militarily, and war with Russia would not be worth it.

With time and patience, the West would have come out the winner with its spreading ideology. With conflict, nations will reject liberalism and turn against it.

Yshai Amichai is a father of six and an author with a legal education, whose books advocate upholding the Torah as a national Constitution. He may be contacted at: [email protected]