As I walked through the checkpoints and met with Ukrainian refugees fleeing to the safety of our European allies, I could not help but think back to memories of growing up during the height of the Cold War – a formative time for me.
What we saw then was an economic and political system that was so weak, they relied on the barrel of a gun and barbed wire to subjugate rather than govern. It became abundantly clear to me that a “superpower” that must erect walls to keep their people from fleeing is neither super, nor does it possess any real power.
I never thought that decades later I would be face to face with Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the violence and bloodshed being led by a man born from the ash heap of the Cold War. Vladimir Putin’s demented fantasies and lust for conquest are responsible for thousands of innocent deaths and the displacement of over 10 million Ukrainians.
It has been said that the greatest natural resource any country possesses is its people. That rings true for the nations we visited. Roughly two million refugees have fled to Poland and another five hundred thousand to Romania. And in both countries, we did not see a single major refugee camp.
为什么? Because the people of Poland and Romania have opened their doors to host, feed, and care for Ukrainian refugees – perfect strangers acting perfectly.
This conflict is not a collection of pixels on a television screen. These are real people, with real families, and there are real, lasting consequences.
When we met with Romania’s Minister of Internal Affairs, we heard the story of his nine-year-old daughter learning why her friends are safe and why Ukrainian children are not.
In one night, a young child had to learn about the intricacies of NATO and what Article 5 means to our allies. After this story via his interpreter, he looked each of us in the eye and in English said, “thank you.”
Through this conversation and countless others, one thing has never wavered – the fighting spirit and resiliency of the Ukrainian people.
Their fortitude reaffirmed what I have been saying for months. It is crucial that the United States continues providing Ukraine with robust lethal and nonlethal aid. 特别, Ukraine needs to deny Russian air superiority. To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill’s speech at MIT in 1949, “Air superiority is the ultimate expression of military power.”