Five percent of Americans claiming Ukrainian ancestry live in Ohio. Centered around Parma’s Ukrainian Village, the community preserves Ukrainian traditions. The Ukrainian Trident frequently accompanies obituaries in the Plain Dealer.
Ohio’s rich Ukrainian heritage contributed to Senator Rob Portman’s appointment as the co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus. Portman opposed Russia’s 2014 invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea. He remains one of the Senate’s most vocal critics of Russian President Putin leading up to the current invasion.
Portman also endorsed former Republican State Chairperson Jane Timken. The Timkens profit from selling ball bearings to the Russian Railroad and have generously funded most Republican politicians in Ohio. In 2014, the Cleveland Ukrainian community protested Timken sales to the Russian railroad, linking the railroad with the transport of soldiers and equipment to Crimea.
According to the President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Andrew Futey in 2014, “Over 100,000 Russian troops are on the border of Ukraine. They’re getting there by rail…exactly the … the business that our friends in Canton have signed a deal for with Russia. Our hope is that, understanding this is a business transaction that didn’t happen overnight, that they suspend this joint venture.”
The sale went through and the trade continued. Until a few years ago, the Timken webpage had a direct link to the Moscow office; now the site directs you to a Russian language version without mentioning contacts in Moscow. Though the stock market has suffered since the invasion began on February 24, Timken stock has gained.
Ohioans should condemn Putin for his invasion of Ukraine, but they should also insist that railroad parts be included in any sanction packages. It is unconscionable that the Timkens continue to trade with Russia, that Senator Portman endorses Jane Timken, and that Ohio Republican politicians continue to take dirty Timken money.
The Timkens will continue to profit from this invasion, as Ohioans pay with higher oil and gas prices.
In the Timkens’ defense, they likely never imagined Russia would invade Ukraine. The invasion violates the UN Charter, the Helsinki Founding Agreement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which provided Ukraine security assurances in exchange for giving up its nuclear arsenal – once the world’s third largest.
As Russia’s influence declined following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, and NATO and the EU expanded right up to Russia’s borders, Putin pouted. “This was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” he lamented.
Putin thinks the West, under US leadership, further insulted him with the NATO-led 1999 bombing of Serbia, the US rejection of the 2003 Kozak Plan – a Russian proposal to settle the Transnistrian Conflict in Moldova, and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s criticism of the 2011 Russian presidential elections.
Life in Russia is awful. Putin became the world’s richest man by diverting the billions in foreign assistance Russia received in the 1990’s. Life expectancy is down while poverty, alcoholism, abortion, pollution degradation and corruption are all on the rise. Putin invades his neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia, when his ratings fall. His success in influencing the 2016 US elections by hacking, disinformation and other means of cyber warfare were ratings winners in Russia.
Russians self-identify as heroes and patriots because of “The Great Patriotic War.” Russian children are weaned on these lessons with their mothers’ milk, and Russian textbooks, television, literature and cinema are saturated with WWII imagery. As Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich notes in her book The Unwomanly Face of War, in Russia, war is glorified, you cannot escape it. Though there are some protests in Moscow and other cities, the majority of the population believes the propaganda that Ukraine needs to be de-Nazified. Opposition activists who present alternative narratives end up imprisoned or worse.
Invading a sovereign state is easier and more popular than cleaning up Russia’s massive domestic mess.
How is he invading?
Russia’s conventional forces are at least triple that of Ukraine. Russian invasion routes have been public information for months. The United States and NATO have been publicly sharing this information, taking away any element of surprise. Russia prefers to conduct land operations when the land is frozen, so their tanks do not get stuck. Russia also enjoys air and naval superiority. And the Russian public is prepared to welcome back body bags.
Perhaps the most surprising element to Russia, so far, is the tenacity of the Ukrainians. World public opinion gives Ukrainians strength and weaponry now is pouring in. Russian military planners, though hoping for a blitzkrieg takeover of the capital Kyiv and installation of a puppet government, may have miscalculated Ukrainian resolve.
Russia first announced its plans for hybrid warfare in 2013. Putin has used hybrid warfare in Ukraine to influence the public with disinformation. He also has attempted to shut down Ukrainian infrastructure with cyberattacks. Analysts are puzzled about why this has not been more effective during this invasion. NATO’s contributions to Ukraine’s cyber-defense are working. It would be a real blow to Russia’s war machine if cyber defense has caught up to Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities.
Putin is not hesitating to rattle the nuclear saber. Ukraine reluctantly agreed to give up its nuclear arsenal in 1994 in exchange for assurances that Russia would not invade. Putin now claims this document is invalid because somehow Ukraine is the aggressor, and he frequently reminds the public that he has a nuclear option. Russia remains a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but instead, Putin reminds us he does not respect any of Russia’s international obligations.
Sanctions must include trade with Russia. On February 26, Governor DeWine directed a ban on both the purchase & sale of all vodka made by Russian Standard, the only overseas Russian-owned distillery with vodka sold in Ohio. Russian Standard’s vodka is sold under the brand names of Green Mark Vodka & Russian Standard Vodka.
Though that is a step in the right direction, and might help my son’s and his friends’ drinking problems, it is a drop in the bucket. Ohio needs to do thorough research on all Ohio-based companies doing business with Russia, including real estate, and Dewine should order them to stop. There is nothing Russia produces that Ohio needs and no Russian market that Ohio producers need.
The best offense is a good defense, but there is growing sentiment here, and in NATO, to explore a greater offensive cyber capability. To most security experts, cyber is growing into just as dangerous a security threat to the world as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. These experts advocate for a cyber weapons convention. With Russia increasingly acting as a rogue state, but with the most experience in cyber warfare, imagining incentives for Russia to join such a convention is a challenge.
Russia bases its “world power” status with its seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. From this seat, Russia has vetoed every measure the West undertakes to secure world peace, from supporting Serbia in its quixotic quest to deny Kosovo independence, to siding with Iran. Russia’s successor status as the only successor to the USSR on the Security Council should be questioned. Additionally, UN members should question whether a member state can remain a member of the Security Council regardless of its behavior. The OSCE also should undertake measures to define Russia’s role in that organization, a suspension is more than warranted. The OSCE suspended a member just once when Serbia/Montenegro grossly violated CSCE commitments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. The International Olympic Committee should have banned Russia from the Sochi games onwards, and should do so now, as should other international sports organizations.
Russia is committed to overthrowing Ukrainian President Zelensky. Should Russia succeed in taking Kyiv, the West should support a Government in Exile in Lviv. This government should protect Zelensky and be provided the means to disrupt and push back Russians from Ukrainian territory. Planning should start now.
Back to Ohio
Ohio politicians must support our significant Ukrainian diaspora and undertake measures in trade and cyber security to defund Russia and deny cyber attack targets in Ohio. As a retired US diplomat, I took pride in our role in ending the Cold War. We erred in considering Vladimir Putin a rational actor. He is anything but; we have to fight back for the future of democracy.
Jennifer Brush is a 30 year US diplomat with postings in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. She was the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) Ambassador to Moldova from 2012-2014. Ambassador Brush was born in Solon, Ohio and has retired there.