David Carlson: Putin is smiling

Vladimir Putin is smiling, and that isn’t good news. What Putin is smiling about is a recent development in our country during this election season. As he has hoped, both political parties — Democrat and Republican — have factions within them that question the level of support for Ukraine.

One of the lessons we learned from the pandemic is that any issue, even a health issue that affects us all, can be politicized. But, I did not expect the suffering of the Ukrainian people to have such a fate. I thought Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine would elicit the empathy of all Americans, no matter where they are on the political spectrum.

I thought every American would see in Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine his first step to remaking Europe, his assault on Ukraine to be followed by invasions of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and maybe other Eastern European countries.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow to realize that Putin might understand us Americans better than I do. From the beginning of his war on Ukraine, he has counted on the self-centeredness of Western countries. He has never lost his conviction that, given time, citizens of Western democratic countries will tire of making sacrifices for the sake of the Ukrainian people. Put another way, Putin has assessed the West as an “it’s all about me” society.

Never doubt that Putin and his henchmen pay close attention to what politicians in the West are saying. He knows that Biden’s support for Ukraine is being described as overly generous by factions within both parties — and he’s loving it.

Somehow, Ukraine’s heroic resistance to Putin has become a luxury issue for some Americans, something that can be questioned as too expensive. Members of both parties consider Ukraine’s survival as less important than what makes life comfortable in the West — lower gas prices and lower inflation rates.

What makes this questioning of our support for Ukraine not just immoral but also shortsighted is that the Ukrainian forces are currently pushing the Russians back. David is giving Goliath a beating, so why would anyone advocate scaling back support for David?

Putin is that spoiled child who is never satisfied with one cookie and grabs for all the cookies on the plate. The only cure for his addiction is for the war in Ukraine to leave such a bitter taste in the mouths of the Russian people that Putin and his lackeys won’t even think about invading other neighboring countries.

But it is too easy to focus solely on Putin’s addiction. Putin is counting on our addiction—our addiction to a life that can’t see beyond our own desires.

It is up to us to prove Putin wrong.

David Carlson of Franklin is a professor emeritus of philosophy and religion. Send comments to [email protected]