Dr. Ed Moore: Crisis in Ukraine Raises Questions of Who We Are Now

As we go about our lives with only partially paying attention to world news, we are quick to forget even modern history, much less the history of our parents or grandparents.

With the current world attention on the turmoil in Eastern Europe, we likely forget the names of nations that were part of the Soviet Union until it collapsed between 1989-92 when Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush were presidents. The world did not go to war when the Soviet Union fell largely because its economy had also collapsed.

We ignored the creation of Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe that occurred between 1939 and after the end of World War II. Our attention then was on Hitler and Japan. Russian moves during that period resulted in the Warsaw Pact and the construction of the Iron Curtain that was largely torn down by 1992, only 37 years since it was created formally in 1955. Members of the Warsaw Pact included the Soviet Union, Romania, Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Albania with other states controlled by despotic autocrats siding with the Soviets, like Tito in Yugoslavia.

I did some work in Bosnia (a part of the former Yugoslavia) for both the IRI and the U.S. State Department. The remnants of Soviet influence still remained in Herzegovina, a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are portions of the Balkan states and large portions of Eastern Europe where citizens have memories of the Cold War borders and Soviet domination.

Ukraine, now the central point of the revived Cold War, didn’t even become an independent nation and break away from Soviet control, until August 24, 1991. It will celebrate its 31st birthday this summer if it survives.

I write this as much to refresh my own memory as for others to read. Conflicts and power moves amongst countries are unfortunately in the DNA of nations. The history of Europe is largely a history of wars. We have been blessed to not see war in Europe for 77 years, an era of amazing economic development as well as the expansion of freedoms in countries with no real history of this level of liberty and freedom.

Will this Russian effort to rebuild the old USSR meet with resistance or success? When the Warsaw Resistance bloomed in 1956, the West responded with silence. Poland sits on the border of both Ukraine and Belarus, a country that is now really controlled by Russia.

Standing up for the freedom of others around the world was a major reason why the 20th Century was the American Century. How we respond now will begin to write this century’s narrative. Does our DNA contain the resolve to support freedom, both here and abroad?

I’m watching the news and struggling with my own feelings. Who we are as a people will be defined by how we act over the next few days. How I wish we had a new Reagan-like leader to lead, something which hasn’t been needed since the 80s and early 90s. The global stability we have seen in recent decades gave us the luxury of less-decisive leaders. We can not afford that now!

Americans need to reflect on who we are and who we should be on the world stage. During my lifetime, events in Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and the various hot points during the Cold War had moments when bad decisions could have been catastrophic. The current crisis is the most potentially volatile moment I have seen and bad decisions will be catastrophic.

May God guide those who are players in this human game of avarice, greed and violence.

Dr. Ed Moore served for many years as the president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) and has served in both the legislative and executive branches of Florida government. Prior to ICUF, Dr. Moore was staff director for policy, for Worker’s Compensation, for Medical Liability and for Public Safety and Security in the Florida House of Representatives. He also worked in the private sector for 21 years.

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