Editorial: Portman is a voice to heed on Ukraine

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2022

As the commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf War, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was probably as well-versed in the skills of the battlefield as anyone, having led his nation and its allies to a victory in that conflict in mere weeks.

However, the general knew that the most necessary task of leaders is that of prevention.

“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war,” he said.

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Unfortunately, this week, hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine crisis were crushed when, on Thursday, the world woke up to what many are saying is the darkest day for Europe since World War II ended.

The news, long feared, came that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered his forces to invade Ukraine.

After decades of stability for the continent, it was a return to war, which, as Mark Twain once said, achieves no glory beyond “a wanton waste of projectiles,” and, as is customary, it is innocent civilians who will suffer the most for the ambitions and ego of a despot.

Not content to occupy separatist regions of his neighboring country, Putin unleashed a full assault by land, air and sea, on all of Ukraine, on a scale that surprised even some who had closely been following the buildup.

Here in Ohio, the attack was met with condemnation by the state’s congressional delegation, most notably U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, who has long been an advocate for Ukraine’s cause.

The northeastern part of the state is home to a large population, of more than 40,000, with Ukrainian ancestry.

The city with the largest concentrations, Parma, has a sister city relationship with Lvov, Ukraine, one of those whose residents now hear air raid silence as the Russian offense continues.

Because of this, many of Ohio’s lawmakers have been supportive of Ukraine’s cause, with Portman being the most vocal and knowledgeable on the issues of that region. He has sounded the alarm for some time on the threat Putin presented to peace, even as many in his party downplayed the amassing of troops on the border.

“We stand with the people of Ukraine, who have sought a democratic and independent future — free from tyranny,” Portman said in a statement on Thursday. “This dream is now under attack by a brutal dictator who seeks to remake Europe and disrupt the international order that has kept the peace since WWII.”

Portman knows all too well that there will be a humanitarian crisis from these events and that the northeast of the state could become a destination for refugees, seeking to flee the Russian advance.

The senator had called on sanctions against Russia leading up to the invasion and has called on the West to hold Putin accountable and urges the U.S. to work with all of it allies for a coordinated response, including the strongest sanctions possible, the freezing of the assets of Russia, Putin and his associates and removing Russia from the United Nations Security Council, which it currently chairs.

Voices of expertise are needed on this issue to, as Schwarzkopf would say, attempt to wage peace.

President Joe Biden, who had advocated similar measures following the invasion, and leaders in Congress would do well to seek Portman’s counsel on the unfolding crisis and prevent it from escalating further.