A Ukrainian/Americans Perspective on Trump

My wife Maria, maiden name Wozniuk, recently wrote a letter to the Ukrainian Weekly which it just published. I will set it out here but first a little bit about her background. She left Ukraine in the middle of winter in  a horse draw cart with her family  because her father was a target of the Bolsheviks. She ended up in Germany. She had the experience of running to bomb shelters as Allied bombs rained down on her.  When Germany surrendered she and her family lived in displaced persons camps. Her family, especially her father, had to hide from the Soviet secret police who were scouring the camps to drag Ukrainians back to the Soviet Union. Many committed suicide rather than returning knowing they would be treated as enemies, most likely executed or sent to Siberia.

She arrived in the United States at age 9 on a ship which the headlines of the local newspaper noted: “DP Ship Arrives.” DP was not a term of endearment. It was used by others as a way to denigrate the new arrivals.

She did not know a word of English. She attended schools that had no accommodations for foreign speaking students to learn English. She slowly picked it up. She  graduated from high school, went on to nursing school and became a registered nurse in New York. Her initial job was at John Hopkins in Baltimore. She then moved to Boston, She was one of the first nurses at the Brigham Hospital selected to work in the newly established dialysis unit.

We married. She raised three children. She taught each of them to speak and understand Ukrainian. They all attained professional degrees. She holds a deep belief in the necessity of education.  Here is what she wrote:

Time to pass judgment on Trump
Dear Editor:
It must be clear to all Ukrainians that Russian President Vladimir Putin is Ukraine’s enemy. Unless Ukrainians are content with Ukraine being a “little Russia” or “that Ukraine is part of ‘the Russian world,’” which The Weekly noted is Moscow’s stance, Ukrainians must accept former President Donald Trump also is Ukraine’s enemy.
Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, Paul Manafort, an advisor to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, changed the strong GOP platform on Ukraine to a mild call for “appropriate assistance.” Mr. Trump told the G-7 leaders assembled in Quebec in 2018 that Crimea was part of Russia because people speak Russian.
In Helsinki in 2018, Mr. Trump disdained American intelligence analysis. He praised Mr. Putin, saying “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” This was called a “disgraceful performance” by Sen. John McCain, who added that “no prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”
Congress passed a defense authorization act prohibiting funds for “activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea.” In his signing statement Mr. Trump defied Congress. He said he would not be bound by the provisions about the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Mr. Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, met on behalf of Mr. Trump in Ukraine with Russian agent Andriy Derkach, and pro-Russia Ukrainians Oleksandr Dubinsky and Andriy Telezhenko.
I fled Ukraine with my family as a child. I returned many times with my children, including to support the Orange Revolution. Our work for Ukraine is unfinished.
Mr. Trump supports Mr. Putin’s noxious position. Ukraine and Republicans will be better off when they need not overcome Mr. Trump’s adopted lies about Ukraine.”

She has had to listen to folk both strangers and the family at large tell her that Trump is not such a bad guy and even some suggest we should look with fondness on Putin and Russia.

I can not help thinking of what Honest Abe wrote: “I got in huge trouble many years ago, in my teens, because I said that Hitler was an amazing public speaker. I didn’t say he was a good man. Just a good speaker. My neighborhood had many people with numbers on their forearms. My opinion never got beyond our living room walls, but still, it was the last time I made the observation aloud. My father had a wicked left hook for an Orthodox Jew. Or for anyone in his weight class.”

I knew many Irishmen who would also let at you with a left hook if you said anything favorable about the Black and Tans or Cromwell. I can just imagine my wife’s temptation to throw a wicked left hook at Americans who cheer for Putin.


  1. I meant to say “with due respect to you and your wife”

  2. The thing is, Ukrainian Weekly has published quite a few opinion letters.

    With respect to you and your wife, she should probably become better informed on the policies of the Trump Administration towards Ukraine. Including stopping the Northstream Pipeline, by which Putler wants to bypass Ukraine in the transit of gas to Yurrup. Beijing Biden will let it go through (even though he called Putler a killer).

    I have also pasted in some a couple of knowledgeable comments from a young man in Ukraine, below the letter.

    This is from a recent letter in Ukrainian Weekly about who lost Crimea:

    read with interest the two letters to the editor from Messrs. Martyniuk (January 29) and Mirchuk (January 15) and the two responding letters from Messrs. Lomacky and Vitvitsky challenging their accuracy (“spouting nonsense”), and seeking an apology for “provocative allegations against our president” and “spreading false information.”

    Apparently, their dispute centered on blame for the loss of Crimea, and its implication on President Joe Biden’s policies towards Ukraine and Russia, especially Nord Stream 2 (NS2).

    Momentous historical events such as the invasion of a peaceful neighboring state have both an antecedent and inferences for the future. So, let’s see what went wrong to avert similar naïve mistakes.

    It is November 23, 1994, and President Bill Clinton is primed to greet Ukraine’s second president, Leonid Kuchma, at the White House for an official state visit. After months of negotiation, Ukraine had ceded to U.S. insistence that Ukraine disavow its nuclear arms and destroy the ICBMs which, if unleashed, would reduce the U.S. to rubble. (Note: When asked by a Ukrainian diplomat for advice, I urged that its ICBMs be exchanged for iron-clad security guarantees, but to retain tactical nukes for additional deterrence….

    “America could be trusted, but not its political leaders”). Less than two weeks later, the leaders of the U.S., U.K., Russia and Ukraine met in Budapest to sign a fateful and ill-advised memorandum that had a direct impact on Crimea, Donbas, and, possibly, Ukraine’s very future.

    Readers who are interested in my thoughts on the Budapest Memorandum may choose to review the article I had written for The Weekly in June of last year (June 14, 2020). I will simply restate the obvious: Ukrainian negotiators understood its terms to mean that the U.S. and U.K. would “guarantee” Ukraine’s territorial integrity, independence, etc., with all means at their disposal short of direct military intervention. But U.S. and U.K. negotiators understood it to mean that Ukraine was simply given “assurance” of its territorial integrity, etc., but without conditions as to the nature and extent of support (if any) they would provide. All four leaders signed documents in three languages committing to both “assurance” and “guarantees,” although the distinctions were clear and conforming words were available. Oversight or deception?

    Fast forward to February 22, 2014. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had fled Ukraine. Parliament appointed an acting president and prime minister. Ukraine’s military forces had been so hollowed out that they were down to 5,000 combat-ready troops. Their Soviet-era top military leadership was untested and unqualified. Ukraine’s treasury was so drained of money and in debt that the country was on the verge of social and economic collapse. All this while Russian President Vladimir Putin raged over Mr. Yanukovych’s desertion, and tens of thousands of Russian troops held exercises across from Crimea. A “perfect storm” for Mr. Putin’s mayhem.

    On February 28, 2014, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council met. Acting President Oleksander Turchynov urged a declaration of war but the country’s defense minister reported that Ukraine could mobilize no more than 5,000 troops, while the prime minister at that time, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, warned that the U.S. 6th fleet had pulled back two U.S. warships from the Black Sea, thus signaling western intentions. Ukraine would have to cope on its own (see https://euobserver.com/foreign/132425).

    On March 5, 2014, Mr. Putin denied he had control over the unknown, uniformed and armed “self-defense” forces.

    On March 7, 2014, former U.S. President Barack Obama places a 90-minute telephone call to Mr. Putin. … They are reported to be “far apart.” In the following days and weeks Mr. Putin doubles-down on his invasion and expansion further into Ukraine.

    In a March 18, 2020, interview Mr. Turchynov chronicles his meeting with then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. He is told that the Budapest Memorandum “does not require a thing of us…we will help only in the diplomatic and political sphere… do not provoke Russia.” They urge him to revoke the recent declaration of mobilization as too provocative. In the same interview, Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev reported how the U.S. Embassy even called the Tartar leadership, directing them to submit peacefully, and assuring them that there will be no occupation. Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, when asked whether he would defend Crimea, responded with an analogy of a thug breaking into one’s home and raping one’s wife, but you do nothing because it would be “provocative” (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbgMK 7nJ2LE).

    In another interview, Mr. Turchynov stated that the period prior to receipt of the Javelins was the most difficult for Ukraine: “We were isolated from the military-technological support of our western partners. They told me that they were afraid that the war would expand.” (Note to readers: The Javelins were authorized during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s second year and the following period was one of the most peaceful in the seven years of war – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCJ W0J0gDPE).

    In a January 2020 interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, deputy defense minister, Maj. Gen. Serhiy Kryvonis, refuted the weakness and pessimism that Mr. Obama demonstrated in urging Ukrainians to roll over. As soon as the war started, “we were prepared to intervene directly with two special force brigades – the 25th airborne and the 79th mobile,” Kryvonis said. He awaited authorization to move, which never came because of “politics,” though his men were prepared to “fight to the death.” He and others in the Ukrainian leadership believed that if they intervened early enough and crushed Mr. Putin’s green men when they appeared, “my intelligence sources tell me” that Mr. Putin was likely to back off (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAFOa9 vicOY).

    It’s obvious that, despite the enormous difficulties Ukraine faced, the government was calling up reserves, mobilizing and ready to intervene militarily. They had reason to believe that Mr. Putin’s camouflage of his troops and denial of responsibility was part of an exit strategy he planned to deploy if his forces met serious opposition. Ukraine was dissuaded (“directed”) to submit without resistance under threat of losing aid from the west and with assurances that the problem would be solved diplomatically. The memorandum on which Ukraine had relied for its security was exposed as meaningless when the chips were down. Having yielded to western pressures, the government had no alternative but to order its soldiers and sailors in Crimea to stack arms and turn over their ships and bases without firing a shot.

    Mr. Obama, acting through then Vice President Biden and after Ukrainians had conceded to his demands on Crimea, continued to refuse military aid with which Ukrainians could defend themselves, even when Mr. Putin again attacked Ukraine in the Donbas. Those were days of shame and infamy for America, and bloodshed and destruction for Ukraine.


    What’s new? Biden being such a burismatic, er, charismatic graduate of the Obama School of Art of the Right-Side-of-History Side Deal.


    The Germans call it realpolitik — being pipeline pals with Russia as long as Putin uses Novichok sparingly, mainly for domestic purposes, without pumping it into the pipeline.

    And Merkel, of course, would rather take in a few million more Middle Easterners than accept into NATO a key Eastern European country. A country occupied, pillaged and brutalized by Germany in WWI and, especially, WWII.

    Well, as Steinmeier put it, no offense, but Germany would rather maintain its “bridges” with Ukraine’s present-day occupiers.

  3. It’s an eloquent letter. Most folks in modern America don’t, really, understand what totalitarianism is. People who grew up during WWII, and, the years that led up to it, do understand, although, there’s a tendency to confuse totalitarianism with socialism. Not all socialist societies are totalitarian; Sweden, for example, is not a totalitarian state.

    Ukraine is situated on the fault-line between East and West. It’s ethnicities, ideologies, races, and, religions, grind against each other like tectonic plates. It’s a boiling cauldron of emotions fired by idealisms gone mad. I’m looking at Pilsudski’s idea of a “greater Poland” and, the attempted colonization of Ukrainian Volhynia and Galicia over a twenty year period (1922-42). There’s nothing simple about Ukrainian History.
    I was hoping to visit Uzhgorod this summer, but, Covid has put that on hold.

    • And if Putin did not back down, there would be little Ujraund could do but lose thousands of young men in a futile battle.

      Your whole position limps because today in the Donbas region Ukraine is unable to use its special forces to drive out the Russians. Putin would never have let the Ukrainians humiliate him.

      Bottom line. Putin wants to take over Ukraine. Trump was willing to let Putin do whatever he wanted. In four years Trump did nothing for Ukraine other than provide it with Jzvelin missiles it could not use on the war front and hreaten to withhold aid from it unless it came up with a phony investigation of Biden.

      Best not to repeat Russian propaganda.

  4. Regarding the former territories or regions of influence of the Russian Empire or of the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics (“CCCP” in the Cyrillic alphabet), it is useful to remember the “Toddler’s Rules of Possession”:

    1.1- If I want it, it’s mine
    2- If it’s in my hand, it’s mine
    3- If I can take it away from you, it’s mine
    4- If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine
    5- If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way
    6- If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine
    7- If it just looks like mine, it’s mine
    8- If I think it’s mine, it’s mine
    9- If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine
    10- Once it’s mine it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what