Here’s the speech I wish President Biden would give about Ukraine:
Russia may have some legitimate security concerns regarding Ukraine and NATO, but that’s not an excuse to invade a sovereign country. Let’s be clear — no one has any desire to invade Russia.
Why would anyone want to attack Russia today anyway? What does it have that’s worth taking? It has lots of oil and gas, but that’s about it. And the world is trying to move away from using fossil fuels to fight climate change, so its oil and gas reserves are going to diminish in value every year.
More than that, nobody is going to attack Russia because we respect its sovereign territory.
We have built NATO with our allies in Europe to expressly defend against the very kind of thing that’s happening right now with Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. NATO is a defensive alliance. That’s all it is.
Vladimir Putin can kill lots of people in Ukraine. He undoubtedly will, and I’m very sorry about that. But he can’t kill an idea. The Ukrainians have voted for democracy. He’s trying to take that away.
What is democracy? In one of the greatest speeches in American history, President Abraham Lincoln defined it as government of the people, by the people, and for the people. In other words, we should have a say in how we are governed. A government that works with the consent of the governed must prove it’s doing a good job, every day, to help people live their lives.
Otherwise, the politicians running the government get voted out and a new group comes in.
America is not a perfect country. Far from it. Like all countries, we have made many mistakes. But we have come up with an idea that makes good sense, and which Vladimir Putin fears more than anything: We believe that the citizens of our country need to participate in making the decisions that determine our future, and the future for our children.
If people are deprived of the ability to participate in our government, they will become subject to the ideas and direction of one person. That’s a dictatorship.
In the case of our Founding Fathers, they confronted a king that didn’t have the interests of the 13 colonies in mind.
Our Founding Fathers did not trust that one person could have so much power and make good decisions for the benefit of the entire country. Our system only works when the president and the Congress can agree on a path forward.
We must talk to each other to figure out how to move ahead. Power must be shared, or it will corrupt the goal of building a nation that benefits all. It’s a slow, clunky, cumbersome system. There are many times it doesn’t work well.
That’s why we have freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Giving citizens the right to state their views helps make the government work better. An effective government pays attention to the different points of view of many people. Also, when people have the right to express themselves, they often make beautiful, interesting art — with books, plays, paintings and movies that have new, original ideas about how to live.
This is far better than allowing just one person to dominate the government and force his will on an entire nation.
The problem here is that Vladimir Putin doesn’t trust the Russian people. He doesn’t trust Ukrainians to guide their own destinies. He doesn’t trust democracy. He thinks he’s smarter than everyone else.
He may be a very smart man, but that doesn’t give him the right to make decisions affecting millions of people without their consent. He was not legitimately elected by the Russian people. And the Ukrainians certainly didn’t elect him president of their country.
Without the ability to work together toward a common future, people will be treated as cattle, who can be moved around at will — without their consent — or treated badly. Or put in prison, by a government they didn’t elect.
Humanity deserves better than that.
We need to do all we can to help Ukraine defend itself. All democratic countries need to come to Ukraine’s aid in this desperate time. While Vladimir Putin didn’t attack Poland or the Baltic nations, that may come. He didn’t attack Germany or France, or even America. But what he has done is attack the idea of democracy itself.
This idea — that people in a democracy get to choose their leaders, that we get to participate in how we are governed — is going to live on, no matter what happens in Ukraine.
It is an idea that people of all democratic nations cherish. And we will fight for it.