One of the biggest attacks on world peace in recent history — Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine — is falling out of the headlines. And that should worry us all: The war is being eclipsed by bad economic news, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against abortion rights and new evidence of former President Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt.
Fortunately, in addition to President Biden’s successful diplomatic offensive to re-unite the Atlantic alliance in Ukraine’s support, several cities and local governments are launching solidarity campaigns to keep the Ukraine tragedy fresh in everybody’s mind. Such initiatives should be supported and expanded everywhere.
Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Madrid Community, who rules over the greater Madrid area and recently was described by Politico.eu as a “political rock star” in Spain, told me during a visit to Miami that she has just launched a charity drive for Ukraine because public attention was drifting away from the war.
“At the beginning of the war, when the illegal invasion of Ukraine was in the front pages of all newspapers, there was a huge wave of humanitarian solidarity, and we got massive amounts of humanitarian aid for Ukraine,” Díaz Ayuso told me. “But now, that has gone down a lot.”
The Madrid government has placed charity reception booths in city-run schools, universities, and subway stations, and has launched a 30-day media blitz to get city residents to donate non-perishable food, medicines and personal hygiene products for Ukraine.
“Ukraine still needs a lot of help,” Díaz Ayuso told me. “This invasion will not go away anytime soon.”
Several U.S. cities are launching similar, although smaller-scale solidarity campaigns. Polls show that Americans already are losing some interest in the Ukraine drama: While 61% of Americans favor the United States continuing to send weapons to Ukraine, the percentage of Americans who think that the Ukraine war matters a great deal to them has dropped from 51% in May to 41% in June, according to a Fox News poll.
The city of Miami held a voluntary “Guns 4 Ukraine” buyback program June 18 that gave Visa gift certificates of $50 for a handgun, $100 for a rifle and $150 for a “high-powered” assault rifle such as an AR-15. The city’s promotional ad specified, “no questions asked.” Police said it collected 68 weapons, and that it hoped to ship many of them to Ukraine.
Miami Beach has held fundraisers for its Ukrainian sister city of Odessa and raised more than $100,000. Alongside Miami, it plans a golf tournament to raise funds for Odessa later this year, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told me.
A greater involvement of local governments in support of Ukraine is especially critical in Latin America, where — unlike in the United State and the 27-member European Union — most governments have done little for Ukraine beyond condemning Russia at the United Nations.
Yuri Diudin, the head of Latin America at Ukraine’s foreign ministry, told me in a telephone interview that his country needs foreign donations of pre-fabricated homes and construction materials to rebuild homes that were destroyed by Russian bombs.
“We also need non-perishable food and medicines,” Diudin said. “And as we’re approaching winter, we will need electric and gas heaters for the population.”
City governments across the democratic world should follow Madrid’s steps and re-launch campaigns to help Ukraine, especially in countries whose central governments are looking the other way.
Russia’s dictator Vladimir Putin is banking on the West’s short attention span.
If Putin gets his way, we will soon forget about his unjustified invasion of a democratic neighboring nation, Western governments will slow their weapons shipments to Ukraine and Russia will be able to take over the whole country.
That would set a terrible precedent. It would most likely encourage China to invade Taiwan, and would be a de facto license for any dictator to launch armed invasions to neighboring countries.
The future of world democracy is at stake in Ukraine. Let’s not forget that, and press our local governments and grassroots organizations to keep Ukraine on the front burner, before it’s too late.
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