A Free Ukraine Would Not Have Been Attacked

A Free Ukraine Would Not Have Been Attacked
A member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces looks at destructions following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 8, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images)
Roger Koopman

So far, the obvious has eluded us. There’s a critical lesson to be learned from the tragic bloodbath that was once the peaceful cities, hillsides, and farmlands of Ukraine. TV commentators are bent on characterizing Ukraine as a democratic and free country.

Yet if that were true, Russia would have never invaded. To do so would have been military suicide. They would have faced a citizenry that’s not only courageous and resolute, but also a citizenry that bears arms and knows how to use them.

A free nation doesn’t fear its citizens. A free government that protects rather than rules, recognizes the inalienable right to self-defense, and thus trusts its citizens with the private possession of firearms—the most effectual means of defending one’s home, one’s country, and one’s freedom. Ukraine isn’t free. And so, the noble blood of a disarmed population once again flows through the streets of this brave and perpetually embattled land.

Last-minute efforts to loosen gun laws and pass out government-owned weaponry to people largely unfamiliar with the safe handling and accurate discharging of firearms is a cruel and poignant reminder of the abject stupidity of government gun bans. A new law drafted last month, aimed at greater private access to firearms, says it “gives permission to Ukrainians to carry firearms and act in self-defense.” Permission? A free people need permission to defend themselves and their country? Therein lies the irony of a nation politically more aligned to the autocratic controls of the invading Russians than to the individual liberties of a friendly United States.

The bill’s authors further explained that the reversal of past policies was needed due to “existing threats and dangers for the citizens of Ukraine.” Ah! So the “privilege” to defend yourself is entirely situational. It’s not a right at all. Watch how quickly this lately discovered legal right will be taken back once Ukraine isn’t under attack by a foreign enemy.

Until the Russian war, Ukrainians were outright prohibited from owning handguns, and could own a longarm only on a “may issue” basis, with the owner strictly licensed by the government and the firearm nationally registered. According to a 1997 survey, only 640,615 Ukrainians out of a population of 51 million were licensed to own a gun at that time (just over 1 percent) and a mere 7.6 percent of households had a firearm.

More recent studies have rated Ukraine 88th among the nations of the world in per capita gun ownership, with estimates of as low as 9.9 private firearms—legal or illegal—per 100 people. Even taking into account a vigorous “black market,” there’s no avoiding the fact that Ukrainians are a disarmed people. And while an 11th-hour program creating Territorial Defense Units was a step in the right direction, even that reasonable initiative drew harsh criticism from President Volodymyr Zelensky, who asserted that these home guards should consist mostly of “professionals,” not everyday citizens. Do you suppose he missed the point?

For a very long time now, Ukraine’s political leaders have “missed the point” that freedom’s best friend is an armed citizenry. How different would it now be if every household was armed and every Ukrainian hero had the means to fight back? Russia would not be losing the war, because the war would not exist. Putin may be brutal and ambitious, but he’s not stupid.

Just as the Ukrainian citizens have little means of repelling tyranny—either from within or from without—so too, the good citizens of Russia may demonstrate on the streets of Moscow to their great peril, but they have no effectual means of standing up to their government’s absolute control. Putin’s enforcers have all the arms. That includes 6,000 nukes aimed at their enemies.

Consider how different it would be today if, at the time of the Soviet Union collapse, a “crazy idea” I had at that time had come to pass. In those days, the United States had already dumped $28 billion of our taxes into the former Soviet states by 2007, the largest share going to rescue Russia and teach it “democracy and private enterprise.” Billions per year continued down that rathole, enriching the powerful and corrupt, and entrenching an eventual totalitarian government all over again.

Janine Wedel, writing for Foreign Policy in Focus, put it this way:
“The privatization drive that was supposed to reap the fruits of the free market instead helped create a system of tycoon capitalism run for the benefit of a corrupt political oligarchy that has [as of 1998] appropriated hundreds of millions of Western aid and plundered Russia’s wealth. ... Much of this feels familiar to Russians raised in the Communist practice of political control over economic decisions—the quintessence of the discredited Communist system.”
Does any of that surprise you?

Instead of sending massive amounts of unmonitored welfare payments to a rival nation with enough nuclear armaments to wipe out the world, the “Koopman Plan” proposed two simple solutions: (1) Quit the government programs and IMF bailouts, and negotiate with the economically crushed Russians to purchase all of their nukes, then either ship them to America or destroy them in situ; (2) using no U.S. tax dollars, develop an American-based program to arm millions of Russian citizens, through voluntary donations of dollars and spare firearms from national security-minded Americans. A federal tax credit could be given to the donors, paid for through an equal reduction in the defense budget.

The few I shared the plan with didn’t take me seriously. But I have to wonder what the world might look like today if we had given it a try. Freedom, after all, is contagious, and as the current plight of Ukraine is demonstrating, an armed citizenry is an essential requirement for becoming and remaining free.

Here’s the final kicker. Years later, then-Sen. Barack Obama traveled to Ukraine and offered a boatload of U.S. dollars if its political leaders agreed to destroy their large stores of military small arms. Those guns could have been sold outright to the citizens of the country—not unlike the former DCM program that sold M1 Garands to the American public. But arming private citizens was unthinkable to the Ukrainian regime—just as it is to those dedicated leftists on this side of the pond. Leftists everywhere share in common a great fear of an armed citizenry. Do you suppose there’s a reason for that?

Meanwhile, proud and heroic Ukrainians continue trying to defend themselves as best they can. They are but one more tragic example of what can happen to a people disarmed by their own government. It can’t happen here, you say? Think again.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Roger Koopman is a former small businessman, two-term state legislator and two-term public service commissioner. He lives in Bozeman, Mont.
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