President Biden’s Trip to the Ukraine

Many of those from the Republican party have questioned the legitimate value and purpose of the large amounts of money and weapons President Biden has funneled into the Ukraine in their war against the Russians.  A reminder to my friends on the right: In 1983, when the former president, Ronald Reagan, employed the term, The Evil Empire, he was not referring to a place in Star Wars, but rather to the then Soviet Union. 

I question Republican candor in opposing a war started by Mr. Putin when Russia invaded the Ukraine.  For example, Mr. DeSantis, a congressman in 2014, criticized then President Obama for failing to send weapons to Kyiv.  However, he has appeared to suddenly alter his view by stating that President Biden is currently sending Ukraine too much aid.  Fortunately, not all Republicans are against the principles of liberty and freedom that embody the struggle that Ukraine is presently experiencing.

This is not to say that I have been in agreement with all of Mr. Biden’s policies.  The shambolic exit of American troops in August, 2021 from Afghanistan, marking the rapid collapse of Kabul to the Taliban, rapidly erased whatever good America had done there.  Ironically, Mr. Biden has made an effort to reverse many of former President Trump’s policies with the exception of Afghanistan.  Mr. Trump, the co-author of The Art of the Deal, in his haste to have American troops leave Afghanistan, accepted the promise that the Taliban would continue to observe the rights of women, especially, allowing them to further their education.  We now know how that turned out: Not good for women and a lousy deal authored by Mr. Trump.

Rather than reversing Trump’s policies, our current president reinforced them by his abrupt withdrawal of American troops, against military advice.  Here, I would like to remind my friends on the left that this action by Biden, in conjunction with the general sense that American leadership has displayed little lasting power in long distance battles, may have influenced the subsequent Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022.  Putin’s belief that the West was merely a paper tiger underestimated and misjudged both the American and European response to his incursion into the Ukraine. Contrary to Mr. Biden’s very flawed leadership in Afghanistan, he has united Europe and other countries in enforcing sanctions along with military aid so instrumental in Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.

Moreover, many Americans also may have underestimated President Biden’s grit and determination in his surprise trip to the Ukraine on Monday, February 20th.  The President quietly left Washington D.C. on an Air Force C-32 at 4 a.m. on Sunday, February 20, refueled in Germany and then landed in Poland at 7:57 p.m. on Sunday.  From the Polish border to Ukraine, he embarked on a 10-hour train trip to Kyiv.  The fact that Mr. Biden entered a conflict zone where the United States or its allies did not have control over the airspace was a rare and quite risky venture even granted that the president was surrounded by security.

According to news accounts, the president did not sleep well on the train.  Likewise, I have been on similar long train journeys and have had great difficulty with sleep.  The fact that Mr. Biden left Washington D.C. in the wee hours of the morning only must have added to this arduous and long expedition.  Mr. Biden has made his share of mistakes but on what I consider one of the more important decisions he has had to make, that is the current Russian-Ukraine war, he has been on the right side. On his recent trip to Warsaw, his said: “Appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased, they must be opposed.”  Amen to that! 

We Are Americans First

Vladimir Putin’s invasion into the Ukraine, and make no mistake, it has been no minor incursion, has rightfully united the West and much of the rest of the world against him.  But I plead with all of us as Americans not to scapegoat those in American who have a Russian accent.  It is NOT their fault or doing that Mr. Putin’s actions have taken a treacherous course in causing the death of innumerable civilians, along with the mass destruction of buildings in the Ukraine, that are intrinsic to that that country’s culture.  

An underlying guiding principle of the United States is that immigrants coming here would bring their culture and wares but their primary allegiance would go to America.  These new Americans take the oath to become American citizens with the desire to melt into the culture with the many immigrants who have come before them.  They could practice their religion the way they chose along with their customs they brought to America.  One of the more wonderful outcomes of this inflow of different people from all over the world allowed the establishment of all sorts of cuisine and new enterprises that people could taste and experience as a first.  

America has thousands of Russian immigrants who came to the U.S.A. in the ‘70’s and afterwards when there was a thaw in the Soviet Union’s relationship with the West.  Many of those immigrants were Jews who had been persecuted and treated badly for years by Soviet authorities.  But others may have been Ukranians looking for a better life.  Of course, their common language before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, was Russian.  Once in America, those that came might communicate in Russian with each other, but their presence in American helps reduce any form of national antagonistic feelings of a negative nature against each other.  They can be friends.  It is precisely this that is the beauty of America.

Similarly, it was wrong to blame Jews, when the Israelis defended themselves in attacking Gaza in May of 2021.  Whether you agree or don’t agree with Israeli foreign policy, it is simply wrong to attack Jewish people because Israel is a Jewish State.  However, I have read and have been told several Jewish students at different universities were attacked by virtue of their religion.  Chinese Americans were similarly mistreated after the CoVid19, a virus that had its origin in China, had become a pandemic.

It is almost reflexive to find a scapegoat as a substitute for one’s grievances.  This is the easy way of dealing with tragic occurrences that take place from time to time, and as I caution my clients, it is System 1 thinking (see Kahneman and Tversky, 2011).  Unfortunately, this type of thinking, that can be called automatic thinking, does not lead always to a good result.  System 2 thinking, requiring deliberation and rationality, might allow us to reconsider our instinctive nature to point fingers at others.  System 2, in this sense, tells us to take a moment away from the immediacy of our feelings by monitoring them with some deliberative thought.  Hopefully, this type of thinking will serve as a beacon to guide us into a more constructive way of looking at such situations. 

If, In the future, we may start seeing “Russian” villains on all kinds of media (e.g. movies, animated cartoons, games and T.V.) Let us keep in mind that such caricatures are not of “Russian” Americans.  Here System 2 thinking will help us not to forget that distinction by reminding us of what it means to be an American.