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Ukraine’s Yermak: Remember Reagan’s Words This Memorial Day

Days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine last year, one of our nation’s leading singers laid down his microphone and became a soldier.

Taras Topolia, the frontman of the band Antytila, signed up for the Territorial Defense and traveled to join war efforts in Irpin, Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Borodyanka.

The singer, who has collaborated with Bono and Ed Sheeran, was not alone.

He was joined by directors of private health clinics who left their practices to lead medical units in frontline combat brigades.

Wedding photographers turning their hand to aerial photo reconnaissance. Bartenders training as field artillerymen.

He met a frontline commander who had previously featured on the Forbes magazine list of 100 richest Ukrainians.

Topolia says his new “dual life” is “not so easy, but we must do it.”

“We are fathers and husbands,” he added. “We have some dreams. We had some plans and the war changed everything.”

Today, the United States marks Memorial Day with its annual remembrance of heroic U.S. service members who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting tyranny and defending freedom.

Ukraine, too, has reason to pause in gratitude and pride at the performance of its citizens in war.

Fifteen months ago, we were David facing Goliath.

When Vladimir Putin sent his tanks across our borders, many military analysts concluded that Ukraine would disintegrate.

We would have to learn to fight a hit-and-run insurgency, picking our targets and moments carefully, harassing the invaders until – perhaps years or decades later – they wearied of our resistance and departed.

Yet today it is the once-mighty Russian military machine that is in a state of disintegration.

The wreckage of its failed onslaught is scattered across eastern Ukraine.

Putin’s mercenaries are publicly cursing his generals.

His own Kremlin spokesman has declared the war “very difficult.”

How did this extraordinary turnabout unfold and what does it mean for America and the rest of the world?

In Ukraine we are all soldiers now, united by a passion to save our country and a determination to resist a megalomaniac. That unity and conviction has produced a powerful and very beautiful phenomenon.

Long before last year’s invasion, Ukraine had begun to realize how different it is from Putin’s Russia.

We look forward, they look back. We are committed to democracy, diversity and freedom of expression.

We consider ourselves part of Europe, not Russia.

Yet Putin seeks to recreate the old Soviet colonial model. He hungers after lost lands. He locks up those who challenge him.

When Russia invaded and illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula almost a decade ago, it provided the clearest of signals to Ukraine that our borders elsewhere were vulnerable.

Our armed forces began a rapid process of modernization and integration with NATO-standard training and equipment.

We prepared a 10-year-plan upgrading weapon systems, developing elite special forces and adopting advanced technologies.

In 2019, we began to procure ample stocks of the Turkish-produced Bayraktar TB2 armed drones that played such a key role in our early resistance last year.

By February 2022 we were not the Ukraine that Putin imagined would be a pushover.

We had become flexible, resourceful and adaptive – everything the Kremlin is not.

When, in the wake of the Russian invasion, our army’s professional ranks grew by tens of thousands of civilian volunteers, the newcomers were quickly integrated.

They brought new skills, knowledge and motivation to our increasingly effective resistance.

In Kyiv, we are grateful for the support of America and our European allies. We have drawn on the extraordinary moral support that countless Americans and other peoples around the world have expressed for our fight to save our homeland.

Where does this leave us today?

Putin’s grip on power – and his readiness to crush dissent – has led to concern among some of our allies that a dangerous stalemate looms; that the war has become too expensive; that it would somehow be better for America, NATO and the West if Ukraine was obliged to negotiate.

Be under no illusion that this war is about much more than Russia versus Ukraine. It is about defending the shared values that U.S. service members have fought for since the days of the Founding Fathers.

If Putin is rewarded in any shape or form for the atrocities he has committed in illegally invading Ukraine, what message does that send to tyrants and terrorists around the world?

That the West is weak, and that aggression will ultimately pay?

Putin has already joined forces with one of America’s most dangerous enemies to further his aims in Ukraine.

He has strengthened Russia’s alliance with Iran, purchasing hundreds of Iranian-made kamikaze drones.

How will he repay the ayatollahs? With the nuclear technology they crave? What does that mean for Middle East peace?

There is only one way that the war in Ukraine should end, and that is with Putin’s defeat.

On this Memorial Day, we remember the words of late U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who faced an earlier incarnation of Kremlin aggression.

“Here’s my strategy on the Cold War,” Reagan often declared. “We win and they lose.”

In the early 1990s, American leadership changed the world.

With American power behind Ukraine today, the world can be certain that we will win and Putin will lose.

Andriy Yermak advised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and serves as Head of the Office of President.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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