I am Lance Conrad, author of the Historian Tales series. My currently published books, The Price of Creation, The Price of Nobility, and The Weight of Swords are available through Amazon, Dawn Star Press, and other excellent booksellers. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What I Would Say to the Ukrainians

   Two things should be obvious by now. First of all, this situation in Ukraine is very personal for me and deeply troubling. Second of all, I have no qualms about offering my opinion to those who haven't asked for it. So with those two things in mind, here are the three things I would say if I could have a heart-to-heart talk with every Ukrainian.

#1: Be Brave!

   There have been a lot of people, myself included, who have likened this situation to the beginning of World Ward Two. On a global scale, people are frightened of a new era of Russian expansionism. From the Ukrainian point of view, however, there is another war that is far more relevant: the American Revolutionary War.
   Whatever else might be said in patriotic songs and stories, our war for independence was fought against a vastly superior force and with a very divided country. There were large portions of the population who felt that their interests would best be served by staying allied with Great Britain. It can be deeply discouraging when there are some of your own countrymen who feel more loyalty to the enemy than to their own homeland.
   Still, there is great encouragement to be found in the story as well. We never could have beaten the British in open war. We were too divided and they were too strong. In the end, we didn't really have to. All we had to do was to make it too much of a pain to stay. For all the analogies that have been flying around, Putin is not Hitler. Hitler was a raving zealot, ready to kill or die for his fanatic beliefs. Putin, on the other hand, seems cold and calculating, and certainly given to enjoying the good things in life. He did not seize the Crimea for the good of its people or for some misguided ideal. He invaded for economic reasons, for money, to make a grab for your ports and long term financial benefits. He will not stay if you make it too troublesome for him.
   So even when it seems hopeless, I would tell you to resist. Even when it seems like you are beaten, I would tell you to fight. And even when the enemy seems as mighty as a bear, I would remind you that even great bears limp at a small thorn in their paw.
   All you have to do to win back your country is to be the thorn.

#2: Be Braver!

   Any revolution worth having is worth having again. Your great temptation when you have won your battles will be to relax and try to pick up the pieces. The truth is that Ukraine had widespread problems before Yanukovych. There must be an open war waged against corruption at every level of government. There must be protests against the organized crime that drowns honest businesses.
   For Ukraine to realize its potential, each and every citizen must take responsibility for the good of the country. Your government, no matter how just, cannot save you. That is not even the government's job.
   There comes a moment after the loud chants and songs, a moment where quiet courage is needed. This greater bravery is needed to work every day to build a better Ukraine, to believe that the efforts you put in to making your home and neighborhood better will pay off in the long run for you and your children.

#3: Be Bravest!

   Bravery is measured by the obstacles you must overcome within yourself. Understanding this, there is almost no greater bravery than forgiveness. When the dust has settled and what's done is done, you will look to your neighbors. There will be those that did nothing, there will be those who supported Russia, and there will be the nation of Russia itself, your national neighbor.
   You would be completely justified in feeling anger and resentment towards these neighbors. None would judge you if you hated them. But all that justice will not make you great, only mercy can do that.
   Forgive your neighbors who stood idly by or even opposed you. Show them the benevolence and dignity of a Ukrainian. They will see the future of the country in you and they will believe.
   Last of all, I would ask you to forgive Russia. It is not the Russian people who ordered the invasion of Crimea or the corruption of your leaders. It mostly falls on Putin, and he will not be president forever. The history between the US and Britain is long and blood-soaked, but now we have become the greatest of allies, even when our politics do not agree.
   It may be too early to think this way, but I can foresee a time when Ukraine and Russia can deal with each other as equals, working together to increase the welfare of both their peoples. Holding on to feelings of anger and hatred would rob you of that future and leave you watching your back for the rest of time. Everyone deserves better.

#Ukraine #Putin #riseagain

Monday, March 3, 2014

One American's Take on Putin

   I feel a bit like Winston Churchill today.
   A full decade before World War Two started, my buddy Winny started panicking about a little German guy with a funny mustache.
   Nobody really believed him. Nobody really had any good reason to believe him. Hitler was just a political reject in a broken country when Churchill started his dirge of doom. Fresh out of World War One, nobody wanted to hear that, so he was mocked and sent into political exile until Hitler had rolled up most of Europe.
   So why did he make such outlandish claims about Hitler when there was so little supporting evidence? It's very simple. He studied the man and knew what sort of person he was. He knew enough about history and about mankind to know that a power-hungry zealot like Adolf would not be stopped until someone stopped him.
   That is how I feel about Putin.
   Let me paint a picture for you. Putin is a fighter pilot, judo master, ex-KGB agent. That all by itself should be a fair hint that this is one scary sucker (The dead shark eyes don't help much either).
   That is just the beginning, though. He also has a long and questionable history of making his political problems magically disappear. People were whispering about poisonings and media tampering over ten years ago. Somehow everyone managed to move past all that because everybody knew that Putin was on his way out. Sure, he had been a scary and manipulative president, but he had been good for Russia overall and his terms were up. He would have to leave the presidency and all would be well. Right?
   It possibly would have been, but instead he just stepped down to Prime Minister while another person nobody really remembers kept the seat warm for him. As soon as that constitutional formality was out of the way, he stepped right back into the presidency, stronger than ever.
   Enter Ukraine. It is a country very valuable to the Russian economic scheme and it has never been out from under Putin's watchful eye. I refer you to my last blog post about Yanukovych, who served as Putin's toadie in Ukraine, making sure that the country's policies stayed very Russian.
   At last, the Ukrainian people manage to oust the sad sack and he runs away to Russia. No big surprise there. But now, Yanukovych tells a stirring story of an illegal coup and an imminent danger to the Russian-speaking peoples of Ukraine. Coming from that would-be tyrant and murderer of his own people, it is a truly laughable accusation.
   But I stop laughing when Putin jumps right on board and immediately sends "peacekeeping" troops into Ukraine's borders to "preserve democracy." Over 16,000 Russian troops now stand on Ukrainian soil, with supporting armor and air support.
   So we might expect that the peacekeeping troops have been helping quell riots and repair the damage done in the capital, right?
   Wrong. The force landed on the Crimean Peninsula, stopping up Ukraine's major ports and shipping lanes in the Black sea, over five hundred miles from Kiev! Geography alone is more than sufficient to tell the truth of the thing.
   This is an invasion.
   There is no way around it and no other possible explanation for the massive amount of troops and armor in that location. Leaders in the West have wagged their heads in the most disapproving way they knew how. Now they have even threatened to have talks about some sort of economic sanctions. May there be peace in our time.
   Putin is five moves ahead in this chess game and our leaders still think we're playing Go Fish. Those who know me are fully aware that I do not hold or spread any sort of extreme views. So I hope that there is a sense of gravity in the mind of my reader when I say that we are staring down the barrel of war.
   We may push it back a while, mostly through selling out Ukraine for a promise of diplomacy; but I challenge anyone out there to study the life and policies of Vladimir Putin and tell me that he doesn't have the will and capacity for domination in the East.
   It is my fondest hope to be wrong about this. But I don't think I am.