Apologies in advance for making you consider something uttered by David French and Jennifer Rubin, but the two work for prominent news publications that unfortunately shape our national dialogue, so bear with me.
“DeSantis actually called Russia’s grotesque, aggressive invasion of a sovereign country a ‘territorial dispute.’ … Astonishing. Dangerous.”—French, New York Times columnist
“[DeSantis] has decided that if you can’t beat the pro-Putin wing of the Republican Party, then join them. He declared that Russia’s brutal and unjustified war of aggression against a sovereign Ukraine is actually ‘a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia…'”—Rubin, Washington Post columnist
The “territorial dispute” quote is from Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recently released statement about the ongoing war in Ukraine (a place our elected leaders in Washington sometimes refer to as “Our Last Great Hope.”) What he said more fully is that “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia” is not a “vital interest” to the United States.
That’s a view shared by anyone who thinks yet another foreign war without clear and substantial strategic benefit to America is not something we should busy ourselves with. (It’s not like we have any pressing problems here!) But French, Rubin and the rest of the national media really hate that view. It’s “pro-Putin”! It’s “astonishing” and “dangerous”!
DeSantis should say it one more time for the people in the back. The war is literally a dispute over territory. Russian leadership claims Ukraine as its own and the Kremlin’s settlement offers are based almost solely on territory concessions (with some details related to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
“I believe that Russians and Ukrainians are one people … one nation, in fact,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in 2019. In some parts of Ukraine, even Ukrainians claim that. “Many In Eastern Ukraine Want To Join Russia,” read a NPR headline in 2017.
The Washington Post last year found at least 15 percent of residents of Ukraine’s Donbas region said they wanted to join Russia. Maybe, just maybe, this has something to do with Russia and Ukraine being literally part of the same nation for more than half a century.
I know that’s not very sexy for the nerds in the media who prefer to think of the war like a Marvel movie where a corny villain can be overpowered by a united and freedom-loving Justice League, but that’s not the case.
Democracy is at stake!
*Cue Max Boot solemnly removing his little hat in reverence.*
It turns out that discussing the conflict doesn’t first require the speakers to confess their love for Ukraine and hatred for Putin while shedding a tear. It’s not the romantic affair that Rubin, French, et al. want it to be.