It seems unfathomable that a week ago, the world's televisions were full of triumph and sport, international spirit and respect. Those same screens are unrecognizable now, as people from every continent woke up to a new reality: war. As images flash across monitors of explosions along the Ukrainian front, there's a certain disbelief that any of this is real. Families, hunkered down in bomb shelters. Children, pinned with bright stickers listing their blood types, parents' names, and phone numbers. Mothers and fathers, braced for news that their soldier sons have fallen. A new winter is blowing through the West, and no one is sure how -- or where -- it will end.
While air raid sirens wailed ominously through the morning, people packed into subway stations or sat terrified in the miles-long traffic jam to escape the city. "We try to be brave," one woman told a U.S. reporter, "because we have children, and we don't want to show them that we are scared." Outside, the shelling only intensified. On Fox News, Alexey Goncharenko, a Ukrainian parliament member, begged the United States to help. "They're killing innocent people just in this minute," he pleaded. Many Ukrainians are already dead, the interior minister confirmed, as footage of flaming helicopters and collapsing apartment buildings sent shockwaves through Europe.
In Chernobyl, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the nuclear power plant was under attack. It fell barely an hour later into Russian hands. At the same time, trains carrying hundreds of vulnerable children raced to get orphans out of Luhansk.
Here at home, Americans watch helplessly as the largest land war in Europe unfolds since 1945. In one powerful piece of video, CNN's Clarissa Ward becomes visibly moved by a group of Ukrainians kneeling together on the cold stone of a Kharkiv square to pray in the early morning hours. In the desperation of the moment, heedless of the chaos around them or the freezing temperatures, they appeal to their one hope: God. "It speaks to the state of ordinary Ukrainians here," Ward says solemnly, "who have done absolutely nothing to deserve this, who have no quarrel with Russia, who have no desire for war or conflict... who will ultimately be the one to bear the brunt of this multi-pronged, major attack by one of the world's most sophisticated militaries."
And of course, the frustration in the U.S. -- especially among Republicans leaders -- is that so many of these horrors could have been prevented. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flat-out called it a "failure of American leadership." "[Putin] saw -- from his soil -- American pipelines shut down, southeast gas lines shut down, and President Biden meets him and just wags the finger," he concluded. "He saw opportunity, combined with his deep desire to rebuild a security zone around his own country, and he said, I believe I can do this and the cost to me will be exceedingly low, and so far, I fear, he's been proven correct."
The United States buried the best weapon it has to protect Ukraine and the rest of the West: American oil and gas. "We could turn this around tomorrow with American energy," House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) explained on "Washington Watch," "except that for the last year, [Biden] crushed the American energy industry. President Biden could do a lot of things today... open up federal lands... green-light the Keystone Pipeline. You know, they haven't approved a single pipeline in the United States of America. So it's hard for us to move energy [and] to produce energy in America... He's begging Russia to produce more oil. And now you see the fruits of those failed policies."
As conservatives have said from the beginning, it's a national security issue when America becomes dependent on foreign oil. We should have learned that lesson during COVID when the supply chain went haywire. And yet, starting on day one, Oklahoma Representative Kevin Hern (R) pointed out, "Biden sent a message to the world that we were going to start depending once again on foreign oil... Hours after he was sworn in, he killed the Keystone pipeline through executive order. Then he moved forward and he declared a halt to all oil and gas leases on public lands across America. He stopped them..."
If there's one thing President Biden should be doing, Hern insisted, it's "looking inward here and seeing the decisions that he's made. All he needs to do is reinstate the Trump policies." Get back to Made in America energy. Embrace the energy independence that can safeguard the Western world. If America were producing the kind of fuel it's capable of, we could be exporting a lifeline to all of these European countries who, in desperation, are turning to Putin's sources.
Even Barack Obama understood that, Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) pointed out. "The last year of the Obama administration, they opened up [the] exporting of oil. So even [Biden's] boss [recognized] the impact of us being dependent on foreign oil... [And yet], he's taken us right back to where we were in the dark days of the 70s, where we saw escalating oil prices, creating inflationary effects... The American people need to see the clear consequences of the president's actions, how reckless he was with one stroke of a pen to kill a critical piece of infrastructure..."
For America, time is short. For European countries in Putin's sights, it's even shorter. "The longer this goes on, the harder it is to mobilize what needs to be done here," Daines warned. "And the consequences of that are going to be felt for the next generation."
In Kyiv, where innocent blood is being spilled in sovereign streets, those consequences are unimaginable. Halfway around the world, parents will be digging graves, in part because of choices the free world made. May the Lord have mercy on them -- and us.