The Ukraine-American
Gordian Knot

Most Americans sympathize with Ukraine and were and are willing to supply it with defensive weapons to repel Russian aggression. 

Proof of that goodwill is the virtual draining of U.S. weapon stocks—from stockpiles of anti-tank weapons and large-caliber artillery shells to anti-aircraft and surface-to-surface missiles. Yet the more the United States gives, the more Volodymyr Zelenskyy demands—and the more the American people acquiesce in sympathy for his plight. 

Given such U.S. largess, Ukraine currently enjoys the third-largest defense budget in the world, behind only the United States itself and China in annual outlays. That gargantuan expenditure is a result almost exclusively of American massive arms shipments and other NATO countries’ arms transfers, all based on a commitment to help Ukraine repel Russian aggression. Officials in Russia, Ukraine, and the United States have all agreed that the war is a high-stakes proxy conflict between nuclear Russia and nuclear NATO. 

The original mission, as assumed, was to aid Ukraine in pushing the invader back to the prior post-2014 borders, de facto established by prior Russian invasions that had absorbed the disputed eastern border and Crimea. Then supposedly, negotiations would begin to adjudicate the ancient border disputes that had led to the first iteration of fighting in 2014. 

The Disputed Ukrainian-Russian Border 

Ukraine’s latest counteroffensive could, in fact, get close to achieving that goal of reclaiming much of the ground taken after February 2022. 

But apparently, the war’s aims have now shifted to reestablishing the 2013 Ukrainian-Russian border. That is an ambitious agenda and, in the past, neither President Barack Obama nor Donald Trump nor Joe Biden had ever signed on to it. Oddly, those on the Left calling for the utter defeat and humiliation of the Putin regime and the retaking of Crimea (and who also gave us 2009 Russian “reset”) had rarely voiced such agendas after the 2014 aggression during the Obama Administration. (And remember that was not Putin’s first rodeo; he had invaded Georgia and absorbed South Ossetia in 2008). 

To accomplish this new objective, Ukraine will require far more American weapons, far more deep strikes into Russian territory, and far more attacks against the Russian Black Sea fleet. Those radical escalations have already altered much of conventional American geostrategic thinking.

Gone is the Kissingerian triangulation doctrine that Russia was to be no friendlier to China than to the United States, and vice versa. 

Gone is the unspoken taboo on nuclear saber-rattling. Not since October 1962 have so many politicians and media grandees, in and outside Russia, talked so brazenly about the use of tactical, and on occasion, strategic nuclear weapons. 

Gone is any legitimate worry of a new “Axis of Evil,” given Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are now united in their active anti-Americanism. The new Axis powers are courting Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and some Middle East oil exporters. 

Such an alliance brings with it two of the world’s top-three oil producers, the world’s two largest nations, one in population, the other in territory, the world’s largest nuclear arms stockpile, and, in Iran and North Korea, soon perhaps, two of the most unhinged terrorist-supporting nuclear nations. 

Gone, too, is the idea that the United States must always have sufficient wherewithal to fight simultaneously two, or at least one-and-a-half, wars. At the rate of the present diminishing American arms stockpile, and our pathetic state of munitions production, very soon the United States will not be able both to meet Ukraine’s insatiable arms demands and still have the weapons and resources fully to arm Taiwan and deter Chinese aggression— aside from meeting any new conflagration in the Middle East. 

All the above considerations are well aside from the humanitarian crises in which over 8 million Ukrainians have fled their country that is being systematically wrecked by the Verdun-like war. No one knows precisely how many Russian and Ukrainian dead, wounded, captured, and missing the war has consumed, but the vast slaughter, oddly, has rarely become the chief topic of discussion. The approximations on both sides are likely low, and we could conceivably see 500,000 total casualties by year’s end. 

Michael Sawkiw, Jr., US Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), First Lady Maryna Poroshenko, Valeriy Chaly. 2015 AFP/Molly Riley via Getty Images

Ukrainian Involvement in U.S. Politics 

Then there is the elephant in the room that no one acknowledges. In the last eight years, Ukraine has insidiously managed to massage U.S. domestic politics in a fashion like no other nation in recent memory. Kyiv’s intrusion is ironic, since we had been lectured nonstop about foreign meddling involving  nonexistent “Russian collusion” and “Russian disinformation.” 

The former was discredited by Robert Mueller’s 22-month failed unicorn investigation and the recent report from Special Counsel John Durham. The latter hoax of laptop disinformation has now ruined the reputations of “51 former intelligence authorities” who themselves signed a disinformation letter falsely alleging that Hunter Biden’s authentic laptop, safely in FBI hands, was a likely hallmark  of “Russian disinformation.” Their letter was solicited by the 2020 Biden campaign to offer a plausible denial of the laptop’s incriminating information for candidate Biden in the upcoming presidential debate. 

From 2013 onward, Ukrainian opponents of the then-Kyiv government sought out officials high up in the Obama Administration to aid in their efforts to remove the elected, albeit pro-Russian, president and then to help fast track the proper successor government. 

In 2015-2016, on the assumption that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in for the presidency, a Ukrainian-American consultant was hired by the Democratic National Committee. More specifically, she colluded with the hierarchy of the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, D.C., to derail Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort on grounds he was too friendly with the Russians. 

Politico reported at the time that the same Alexandra Chalupa, a Clinton acolyte, as part of her  $412,000 fee from the DNC, also tapped Ukrainian sources to advance the narrative of Trump-Russian collusion—a project apparently aided indirectly by the Ukrainian Embassy. 

Ukrainian Serhiy Leshchenko, the former investigative journalist and Ukrainian lawmaker, was reportedly a source for the fake Christopher Steele dossier—the catalyst that launched James Comey’s misadventure of Crossfire Hurricane. 

At the climax of the 2016 campaign, the then-Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Valeriy Chaly, took the extraordinary step of weighing in on the election. He wrote for The Hill an anti-Trump candidacy op-ed that helped feed the then-Russian-collusion hoax that was intended to damage the Trump campaign. 

Ukrainian-American and military veteran Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman became a left-wing folk hero for his efforts in prompting President Trump’s first impeachment. Vindman, remember, was assigned as a National Security Council staffer to listen in on a classified presidential phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

But Vindman, worried that Trump might indeed delay or stop arms aid to Ukraine, then likely took the extraordinary step of leaking the call, again likely illegally, to a third-party “whistleblower” CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella. Yet Vindman testified that he did not contact and indeed did not even know Ciaramella. He still has not explained how the “whistleblower” knew of the contents of the classified call. And so it was no surprise that Vindman himself was widely reported to be the true whistleblower—and had misled Congress about that fact.

Ciaramella’s supposed knowledge of purported presidential wrongdoing depended entirely on second-hand knowledge of the classified call. No matter. He apparently followed Vindman’s prompt and collaborated with House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Vindman to craft the strategy of impeaching Trump, right after the recent failure of the Mueller investigation to find any proof of “collusion.” Ciaramella was the Ukraine director on the National Security Council and currently is a loud think-tank advocate of ensuring NATO membership for Ukraine. 

The Left heatedly blasted any suggestion of what it called the “dual loyalty” defamation of Vindman. But that hyperreaction missed the point. Criticism of Vindman was not based on “dual loyalty” but rather Vindman’s own implausible testimony and his partisan activism as a supposedly nonpartisan military officer on behalf of his native Ukraine, whose agenda included further targeting of President Trump on apparent grounds he was insufficiently pro-Ukrainian. 

Indeed, Vindman himself let it be known that the Ukrainian government had offered him on various occasions the key post of defense minister. In truth, no foreign government offers such a high post to a mid-level American officer unless it assumes he brings with the billet Washington insider advocacy and influence—or deserves reward for past service. 

Since his retirement from the military, Vindman has been a vocal proponent on cable news of the need to step up existing massive U.S. arms shipments to his native Ukraine, and belittles most who express worries about the commensurate depletion in American strategic arms stocks. 

He did his reputation on the Left no favors when he founded his own military contracting company, Trident Support, in which he seeks to be paid millions by the Ukrainian government to service and repair imported arms inside Ukraine. 

In other words, Vindman, who was the catalyst for the impeachment of a president over the question of arms shipments to Ukraine, is now a wannabe profiteering middleman military contractor facilitating arms transfers from NATO countries to Ukraine.   

Zelenskyy and other members of the Ukrainian government reportedly have also called U.S. news agencies to complain about occasionally unfavorable coverage of the current war. Most notably, liberal media outlets report calls from Zelenskyy himself to the Fox News hierarchy, complaining, in particular, about the perceived anti-Zelenskyy commentaries of Tucker Carlson. Those reported contacts preceded Carlson’s own firing from Fox News. 

Then we have the Biden family consortium and its lucrative multimillion-dollar Burisma profiteering. Disputes over the Biden lobbying, along with Vindman’s testimonies, prompted the impeachment of the president of the United States. 

Trump’s Call to Zelenskyy 

For all his bluster and ranting, Trump has, in fact, persuasively defended his call to Zelenskyy on six grounds that are rarely countered. 

First, the Biden family indeed was likely corrupt and may well have peddled its influence to affect U.S. foreign policy to Ukrainian government-related interests for lucrative payoffs. 

Second, Joe Biden did interfere in Ukrainian government politics by demanding the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was beginning to question improper Burisma expenditures to foreign agents such as his son—and himself. 

Third, congressionally approved military aid was not canceled by Trump but only briefly delayed. The arms shipments included Trump-requested offensive weaponry that the Obama-Biden Administration prohibited. 

Fourth, Vladimir Putin did not dare go into Ukraine during Trump’s tenure, although he did so both before and after—during the Obama and Biden Administrations. 

Fifth, under Trump’s tenure, there were no formal investigations of likely 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden’s corruption. That restraint was not shared by the Biden Administration, whose special counsel appointee just indicted Trump, now leading in the Republican primary polls. 

Sixth, the recent disclosures of IRS and FBI whistleblowers and from internal government documents allege that members of the Biden family had not fully paid income tax on their quid-pro-quo profiteering. There is an additional allegation of a $10 million payoff to both Joe Biden and Hunter Biden from Burisma, the Ukrainian energy giant. 

The Ukrainian Gordian Knot 

So ponder this complex Ukrainian Gordian Knot: We have Ukrainian government officials and oligarchs interfering in the highest processes of the U.S. government. 

Their ambassador damned a leading presidential candidate in the 2016 race in an op-ed. 

The DNC paid a pro-Ukrainian activist hundreds of thousands of dollars to participate in the “sourcing” of the bogus Steele dossier that sought to sabotage a presidential campaign and presidency. 

A Ukrainian-American, pro-Ukrainian activist helped launch the impeachment of the president of the United States by likely improperly leaking the content of a president’s phone call. The Ukrainian government subsequently offered the same officer the minister of defense post, and he is currently the CEO of his own defense contracting company that is lobbying for multimillion-dollar contracts with Kyiv to provide support services for Ukraine’s military. His company depends on a continued and constant flow of Western arms into Ukraine. 

There are now stunning revelations that oligarchs with close ties to the Ukrainian government may have paid the current Oval Office occupant, when he was vice president, along with his son, at least $10 million in exchange for influence peddling. 

To the degree that the United States supports the brave efforts of Ukrainian resistance is nevertheless a purely American matter. The people of the United States decide their own foreign policy in terms of what is in both American interests and what is the proverbial right thing to do. 

They can make their own choices without the interference in their elections by Ukrainians, without expatriate Ukrainian-Americans aiding partisan efforts to smear a presidential candidate, without a military officer seeking to impeach a president while boasting about being asked to head the Ukrainian defense department, and subsequently running an arms business connected to Ukraine, without Ukrainians pressuring U.S. news agencies to report “correctly” on Ukraine, and without Ukrainian oligarchs sending millions of dollars to a prominent American political family among whom is the current president of the United States who sets U.S. foreign policy on Ukraine, apparently in expectation of nothing other than advancing a pro-Ukrainian foreign policy. 

The irony is that Americans on their own have been generous to Ukraine, often at the cost of endangering their own stockpiles of critical weapons. 

The continued extracurricular and illegal efforts of Ukrainians to lobby for increased arms shipments will prove counterproductive eventually. And if not curtailed, the interference will turn off Americans enough to cut this tangled Ukrainian knot. 

For Ukraine’s own sake and self-interest, it should cease and desist all of its insidious interference in American politics.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the recently released The Dying Citizen, and the forthcoming The End of Everything (May 7, 2024)..

Photo: SUSAN WALSH/AFP via Getty Images

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