Amy Golovan is my partner in life and work. Her aunt lives in Kyiv and is one of the most important people in her life, just as Amy is in mine.
Amy’s aunt helped her flee the fighting in her hometown of Luhansk during Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. During that time, Amy lived in multiple Ukrainian cities and ended up in the metropolitan capital city of Kyiv. Even though Amy is from a Russian-speaking, conflict-embroiled part of Ukraine, she was embraced by everyday Ukrainians and treated with kindness. In Russian State TV propaganda, they said Ukrainians were “Nationalists” and “Nazis” who had taken Russian speakers hostage, tortured, and killed them. That is, of course, pure fiction. Amy would know.
Radical propaganda like this works because most people who hear two sides of an argument conclude the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. People are trusting and in general can’t conceive of the possibility that one group is acting entirely in bad faith. It works even better when all other sources of information are shut off, which is exactly what Putin has done throughout his country and in all territories he captures from Ukraine.
Putin’s propaganda machine is sprawling and tailored to each unique audience. When Russia lobbies for influence in the US, they use different propaganda than they deliver to European countries, which is different yet from it’s propaganda to Eastern Ukraine and domestically. In the US, Russia does not seek explicit support but rather to cultivate a reluctance to get involved. The Russian regime wishes to fracture our trust in Western systems—elections, media, government, etc—and drive a wedge through our common bonds. You know the meaning of “Divide and conquer”.
We must meet this cynical view of us with a strong and courageous message of unity and hope that the Free World standing together can face down and crush any and all strongman dictators who would promote its fall and subject mankind once again to the horrors of war, genocide, tyranny, and subjugation.
The Free World stands as long as it keeps its faith in its three guiding virtues: peace, freedom, and prosperity.
These are the ideals that so many before us have given their lives to protect, the same as Ukrainians are dying to protect now. If we can’t stand for these essential things, then we stand for nothing of value.
Stand with Ukraine. Stand with the Free World.