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A bridge to the Ukraine crisis

General view of the Ukraine Parliament Building in Kiev on June 9, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine.  Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

General view of the Ukraine Parliament Building in Kiev on June 9, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

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It is, as the supersonic crow flies, 6,145 miles between Sonoma and our Ukrainian Sister City, Kaniv, nestled on the bank of the Dnieper River about two hours northwest of the capital, Kyiv (known in Russian as Kiev).

Distance in the Internet age has been radically redefined. While a gripping, geopolitical drama unfolds in Ukraine – with Russian troops occupying part of the Crimean peninsula, and as President Obama’s political enemies accuse him of being a weak-kneed patsy (Sarah Palin, who is a foreign policy expert because she can see Russia from her kitchen window, called Obama “one who wears mom jeans … and bloviates”), events surrounding our Sister City seem at once a universe away and right next door.

As individuals, and as members of a small community, there is an understandable instinct to shrug our shoulders and ask, what can we possibly do that could have any effect on the fate of Ukraine, and why should we care?

We’ll deal with the first question in a moment, but first let’s think about why we should care.

The Sister Cities program has been described by some as a superficial, feel-good waste of time and money, and by others as a meaningful way for citizens from distant points on the globe to explore and celebrate their common interests and their unique differences.

We’re inclined to endorse the second point of view, because we’ve seen firsthand the effects of personal relationships with distant communities and individuals. Differences and distances shrink in proportion to the degree of human contact, and contact between the citizens of Sonoma and Kaniv has been enriching on both sides.

As you read this, people very much like you, with a deep hunger for real democracy, people now pondering a very uncertain future, are reading this too, online. Few if any of us read Ukrainian newspapers, but numerous people in Kaniv read the Sonoma Index-Tribune.

From what we know of their present state of mind, many are willing to put their lives on the line for their freedom, but no one wants war. And neither should we. While some of President Obama’s critics continue their own bombastic bloviating, insisting he must take some kind of tough, possibly armed action, none have prescribed a viable military option against Russia in the Crimean crisis. Because there is none. And not for the first time.

When the Russians sent tanks into Budapest in 1956, we did nothing. We did nothing when they occupied Prague in 1968. We did nothing when Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008. We did nothing because there was nothing we could do with force of arms that would not have fomented a far greater tragedy.

Which leads us back to the first question above – what can we in Sonoma do?

Clearly, our small collective voice is but a tiny breath in the path of a hurricane. But in Kaniv they hear us and they care what we think and say. Therefore, we urge the Sonoma City Council, at its next meeting, to adopt a resolution of solidarity with the people of Kaniv, and with all Ukrainians, calling for calm heads to prevail, for ballots to replace bullets, and for the world to understand we are all joined in our desire for peace. That’s what a good Sister City should do.

  • Phineas Worthington

    I lived and worked in Kiev. I think we should support the efforts of Ukrainian moderates to trade more free with the west and maintain ties with the east if they so choose. The Ukrainians never fully left the orbit of the corrupt militant mercantilist kleptocracy of Russia. And the Ukrainians themselves suffer under endemic corruption and poor governance. Law subordinated to the principles of rights and freer trade are the path to peace. Sadly, we have a president who will not use words or deeds to defend free trade here, much less there.

    Soviet troops did invade Kiev in 91 and occupied the city. Ukrainian secession was the means to a peaceful end to that crisis. The US and Russia were too preoccupied with securing the nuclear arsenal then to focus more on borders that mirrored the ethnic realities on the ground. Now they are confronting those issues and we should let them figure out those issues without further threats or provocations like McCain taking part in disruptive street protests that turned violent, encouraging a mob to oust a freely elected president, and then having Kerry calling the mob and an appointed leader the legitimate government in this era of the US promoting democracy by invasion and military force. Secession resulting from popular referendums now may also be a path to peace as it was then when the Soviet Union fell apart. We need to support those who share our values, but it seems we no longer know what our cultural values are so we really don’t know whom to support anymore. Its tragic really.

    • Chris Scott

      Are you sure of your history? I don’t remember a Soviet invasion of Ukraine or Kiev, nor can I find an historical record of it.

      • Phineas Worthington

        Russia and Ukraine have a 1000 years of history together. CA only just came out of the stone ages by comparison. Ukraine has been the battleground for every army in transit for all of history. Ukraine breeds some very tough people. It is a place where you either get tough or get dead. And Ukrainians are peaceniks compared to Russians.

  • Chris Scott

    If that’s the way you feel, go away and let the rest of us out of your misery.

    • Randy Cook

      Reading and rereading the Idiot’s post I find nothing untoward in what is stated. Do you not interpret the news the same way, or is it possible that an alternative news exists to which the rest of us are unaware?

      • Chris Scott

        “reading and re-reading (the idiot’s) post…” See that’s the thing, that’s just one of those phrases you come across that causes you to scratch your head and proverbially shake cobwebs out of your brain.

        Say what? Read what an idiot wrote? That’s a trick question, right?

        Why? If you tell me an idiot wrote something reading it would be a waste of time. Whatever it is by an idiot it would just be nonsense.

        • Randy Cook

          And how would you address the person who posted? Regardless of your attempt at trying to belittle me, you have not answered the question posted.

          Do you interpret the statement made about the poster’s assessment (the Village Idiot is the name by which this person chooses to be addressed) on present day life in the US to be misguided, or do you have an alternative view of the world in which we live?

          In fact, one could argue that your reply about reality being on TV not only misses the point, but implies that you’re interpretation of the daily news is right, while other’s are wrong, and thus gives you cause to publicly belittle other people’s interpretation of the news. Being intolerant of dialogue on others’ worldview is largely contrary to democratic principles. Frankly, I interpret the point of the post to be about following democratic principles.

          Or maybe that’s not the reality TV wants us to have?

    • The Village Idiot

      Not a chip, & certainly not a hump. Just reality. Sonoma, like much of the country, makes an industry out of avoiding reality. Hard to make things better without first understanding how bad they are. Reality is a grown-up thing. Try it sometime.

      • Chris Scott

        Where do things like this come from? You’re putting too much pressure on yourself and it’s our fault. Please, we have no expectation you, our Villager of Limited Mental Capacity, fully understand the real world we deal with. God forbid you should see things as only bad or the world in those terms.

        We want you to enjoy, I’m sure many envy, your life of simplicity.

        From the perspective of simplicity you enjoy everything looks like the grown-up thing. It’s wonderful you aspire to those grown up things; it great it’s motivation for you.

  • Chris Scott

    Quasimodo,
    Kiev is 82 km / 1.5 hrs northwest of Kaniv.

  • Chris Scott

    David;
    Kiev is 82 km / 1.5 hrs northwest of Kaniv.

  • Phineas Worthington

    My experience in Ukraine made me so proud and happy to be an American. We are so blessed to not be there.