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County Hall Corner: Straight Talk About the Russia/Ukraine War

The recent almost-but-not-quite coup that popped up in Russia brings this conflict back on the public screen in America, but we should be more focused on it for other reasons. Our country is deep in the Ukrainian conflict, and yet what we really know about what is happening is quite sketchy.

Our country has poured many billions of dollars into Ukraine, and that is the first big question— how much money? There are a number of different reports, and they vary greatly. The reports of funds allocated since 2022 range from $30 billion (USA Facts) to $54 billion (New York Times) to $200 billion (Newsweek). And this did not include the recently discovered “accounting error” that provided an extra $6.2 billion. To put these figures in some perspective, the entire budget for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in fiscal year 2022 was $119.1 billion. Even splitting the difference between these figures, Ukraine has received more than twice as much as any country since the Vietnam War days. As taxpayers, we deserve to know how much money really is going to Ukraine and for what purpose.

How did all this get started anyway?

After the fall of the USSR, Ukraine struggled from 1991 to January 1995 until they finally established a new constitution. Like many parliamentary governments, there are coalitions of individual parties (132 parties at last count), and it all falls into essentially two distinct political camps; a pro-Russian group generally occupying the east and southern sections of the country and a pro-West group occupying the west and northern parts of Ukraine.

These two dominant factions of Ukrainian political parties have not played well together in the same sandbox. Initially, it was the pro-West coalition that governed through the late 1990s, but when the pro-Russians took over the government in 2004, they substantially changed the constitution toward their viewpoint. When Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union and instead chose closer ties to Russia in 2014, a violent revolution arose, resulting in the deaths of 108 protestors, 13 politico officers, and the wounding of many others. This resulted in another new, more Western-minded government, which then had the other side making protests that their voices were not being heard. As a result, Russia felt that Ukraine was becoming more of a threat than an ally, and they began flexing their muscles not long after.

So, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February of 2022 did not come out of nowhere. There were serious pushbacks for some time from the eastern area of Ukraine due to the severe restrictions that minimized Russian cultural and spiritual presence in the country. I have been in this region of Ukraine as a business and educational trainer, and I found deep ties to a Russian heritage, best symbolized by the fact that the Russian language was used much more than the Ukrainian language. Throughout its long history, much longer than the United States has been in existence, this area has had deep roots in Russian heritage.

This war has certainly been horrific, but to be honest, almost all of the coverage we see is from the Ukrainian side. What does not get much press in the West is that the breach in the Nova Khakova Dam and the explosions of the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipelines point toward Ukraine more than Russia.

I am not proposing we switch sides and start supporting Russia by any means, but we should not be deifying the Ukrainian government as saints, either. There have been opportunities for compromise on both sides that were disregarded. There will be repercussions no matter how the final outcome of this conflict ends up, and it is very possible that our country will not be better for it. And the people who have had their lives and areas destroyed are certainly not going to be better off when the conflict ceases, regardless of who ultimately comes away with some kind of victory.

Even more disturbing for us in the USA are the allegations of an elaborate influence-peddling scheme by Hunter Biden from the Ukrainian gas giant Burisma to the tune of $5 million. There may be no connection, but there are other questions that need to be answered. Hopefully, the day will come when we learn why this particular conflict has resulted in such vast amounts of American dollars being spent, what it was used for, and whether it was all worth it.