Standing for Democracy
What was intended for evil has been used for good
For the first time in a generation, the democratic West is again uniting against the aggressions of an autocratic Russian leader. And as in the past, when free peoples unite, we overcome autocrats and those bent on breaking democratic systems. Despite facing a super-power and army that dwarfs its own, the Ukrainian people have created their own Minute Men and Molly Pitchers who have stopped the Russian advance. Ukraine is prevailing with support from a US-led NATO, and our sanctions on Russia are crippling its economy.
While the invasion of Ukraine is the most visible attack by Putin against democracy, it is in actuality part of a long game he has been playing for years to undermine and weaken the West in order to make this invasion possible. Unfortunately for the Russian President, rather than crippling an already weakened enemy, Putin’s actions have only strengthened the resolve and unity of the free world.
Russian attempts to undermine democracy date back to the 2016 elections, long before the first tanks rolled into the Ukraine. By this point it is well documented the extent to which Russian operatives weaponized the internet to sow distrust in our democracy and disinformation about issues and campaigns. As Time Magazine notes:
Over the course of the election, a wide-ranging group of Russians probed state voter databases for insecurities; hacked the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee; tried to hack the campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio and the Republican National Committee; released politically damaging information on the internet; spread propaganda on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram; staged rallies in Florida and Pennsylvania; set up meetings with members of the Trump campaign and its associates; and floated a business proposition for a skyscraper in Moscow to the Trump Organization.
Russian interference into the Brexit referendum held earlier the same year in the UK is less clear not because the warning signs weren’t there, but because the UK government didn’t want to see them and still does not want to know.
Putin’s goal in these efforts was to leave the west weakened and in disarray. Democracy has won the world over, which means the only way to defeat it today is to turn democracy’s proponents in on themselves. Russia sought to turn our citizens against each other.
And this is, in fact, what happened on January 6, 2021 when a mob seeking to prevent the ratification of a legal election stormed the U.S. Capitol. While some of the people present may have been there to peacefully voice their anger and frustration at losing a presidential election, others were undeniably there with violent intent. Extremist organizations, fascists, and white supremacists, all active on the internet, took advantage of the situation to stage an attack upon elected officials.
Kyiv is not the first capital attacked as a result of Putin’s actions. It was our own.
But Putin did not succeed then, and a determined West is fighting to ensure he does not succeed in the Ukraine either.
As a result of Russia’s digital attacks on our democracy, and attempts to repeat their election meddling in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, in April 2021 the Biden administration imposed heavy sanctions against Russia. Then, as early as December 2021, President Biden began sounding the alarm about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and working with allies to lay the groundwork for retaliation.
Now the West is responding to Putin’s aggression with unity and force, leveling aggressive sanctions that have immediately crippled Russia’s economy. Key Russian banks have been targeted and cut off from the international SWIFT banking system, while other measures directly target Putin’s personal wealth and that of his closest allies. Rather than being divided, the U.S. Congress is putting together massive bi-partisan packages to send weapons and aid to the Ukrainian people. And President Biden announced in his State of the Union that the U.S. would be joining the EU in banning flights from Russia and in releasing oil from strategic reserves.
At home, our election was not overthrown and, despite the violent actions of some, the U.S. oversaw yet another peaceful transfer of power, as it has done for a quarter of a millenia. Now government officials have secured their first guilty plea for seditious conspiracy related to the January 6th attacks. Congress has launched an investigation into the events surrounding that day, to fully understand how they were organized, who the main leaders were, and how they were funded. And the committee is moving forward with investigating alleged acts of criminal conspiracy by the former administration because in a democracy no one is above the law.
Putin believed his attacks on western democracy would leave him free to take Ukraine without much fight. Instead, he overplayed his hand and overestimated the power of his mouthpieces in the West.
Rather than dividing the U.S. and its allies further, Putin’s invasion has reaffirmed the strength and resolve of free and democratic people everywhere.