Obama must not abandon Ukraine's democrats [Letter]

I am extremely disappointed by President Obama's lack of engagement in Ukraine. It pains me that Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be playing him for a toothless paper tiger ("Obama plans to talk to Russia's Putin about Ukraine deal Friday –official," Feb. 21).

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine had the world's third largest nuclear arsenal, larger than the those of the UK, France and China combined. The Unites States, Russia and the UK guaranteed Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in exchange for surrendering its nuclear arsenal. They also agreed to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate Ukraine to their own interests (Budapest Protocols).

Clearly, Russia is not abiding by its commitments. But as Bismarck, the first chancellor of Germany said, any agreement signed with the Russians is not worth the paper it's written on. How about the United States? The U.S. made a commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty but is now standing on the sidelines while the Kremlin is trying to take de facto control of Ukraine. The U.S. must act to prevent that from happening.

Ukraine is not a democracy. It is a corrupt, criminal dictatorship. Furthermore, everyone knows that the Ukrainian government is controlled by the Kremlin. Mr. Putin has made it clear he wants to re-create the old Soviet Union, and Ukraine is a cornerstone of that project.

People have been standing in the cold, rain and snow since November in an attempt to secure a better future for themselves and for future generations of Ukrainians. The Ukrainian secret police have been employing Stalinist tactics such as making black lists of people who miss work and students who miss school. Intimidation and fear have no place in 21st-century Europe.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is a butcher guilty of crimes against humanity, and Mr. Putin is his paramour. How can we stand by and watch this pogrom unfold when we wage war on other countries for far less?

It is time for Mr. Obama to lead the free world against this brutal, cruel regime and help the Ukrainian people realize their dream of a fruitful and transparent democracy. By not acting he is sanctioning Mr. Putin's dream of restoring the old Soviet Union and in the process setting a terrible precedent for how a world leader should respond in a crisis.

Andrew A. Charchalis, Phoenix

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