When I watched LTC Vindman march up to Congress for his off-camera testimony before Adam Schiff’s impeachment committee, and heard that he was a naturalized US citizen originally from Ukraine, I first noticed the CIB (Combat Infantryman’s Badge) he wore. That told me he was no ordinary Ralph Peters.
During the Vietnam War I served at a major Army command in Asia, where colonels outnumbered lieutenants 10 to 1. I witnessed several occasions at the Officer’s Club bar where non-combat senior grade officers would hold forth on some technical issue such as logistics, admin, or transportation, but then shush when a captain with a CIB chimed in to offer his take on the subject. “Begging your pardon, Sir, but…”.
That CIB carries a lot of weight, and that was my first thought as I watched Vindman walk toward cameras in his dress blues (which is what we called them in the 70s. Kinda Euro-prissy if you ask me.)
America has a long history of encouraging foreign nationals to join our military, sometimes in exchange for citizenship. During the Civil War our government literally drafted able Irishmen right off the boat in New York, and should they survive, they’d get citizenship. During our 18 years of war since 911, we’ve watched hundreds of mostly Latinos be sworn in as citizens after doing a hitch in the Army or Marines, some even re-upping, with a few near retirement now.
That’s the kind of immigrant I feel good about.
Vindman’s surname grabbed me right away, as it is neither Russian nor Ukrainian. It is Norse, so possibly Finnish or Baltic. But that face is definitely Slav.
I first assumed the Vindman’s came to America after 911. And that painted one picture in my mind, that of fully indoctrinated teenagers coming here after the USSR broke apart in 1992. But then I read that they’d emigrated in 1979, when the Vindman twins were only 3.
So how would they become fluent in Russian if Ukrainian were their native tongue? (They are not the same, just the same alohabet.)
I asked this to myself because, if you didn’t know, Russian language was required teaching in every USSR property, including their satellites in East Europe. But it was also despised among 90% of the people, mostly used by local nomenklatura to get along with Soviet Russian bosses. I knew Russian better than I did Bulgarian, and once used it on my friend in Sofia. He stiffened his jaw, and warned me, “Don’t ever speak Russian to Bulgarian or he will knock sheet out of you.”
I had the good fortune of having spent a great deal of quality time in Ukraine and Russia while there was still the Soviet Union. It was my impression that most Ukrainians also despised the Russians, and very proudly spoke their native tongue only.
But something you probably did not know, and that is in the 1930s Stalin transferred hundreds of thousands Russians to all the Soviet republics to form a Russian management nucleus of those societies. Virtually all the vital industries when I was there in ’91-’92 were headed by second-generation Russians, Ukrainian their second language, not the other way around. When I visited Estonia in 2006 almost all the major concerns of Tallinn were owned by Russians.
So, in watching the Vindman story develop, I was a little annoyed that no one was asking about Vindman’s potential for misplaced loyalties. Not as a mole, mind you, but good old fashioned taught-at-home loyalties to the Old Country.
The Vindmans are reputed to be fluent in Russian, but weren’t taught this in school in Ukraine. So they learned it from their father…at home? Or perhaps on the streets in Little Odessa, or Brighton Beach as we called it at the time, which I visited in the ’90s.
But were they also taught at home being deferential toward Russians, especially military, as LTC Vindman expressed toward Russian officers from a conference in 2013, as reported by another Army LTC?.
I can confirm from my USSR days that even as they wanted to come to Amerika to get rich, certain Russians and Ukrainians were down-the-nose about Americans in general. A class thing. It was almost as if they thought it was unfair that such slovenly, uneducated, unkempt people should be “handed” such access to wealth and power, and use it so poorly, while they had no such avenues in the USSR.
I worked with a former Soviet officer from Ukraine (Spetznaz deployed in Ethiopia, of all places…yeah, who knew?) He spoke down about any American business person who did not wear a tie and jacket. Not people he could do biznez with. Told me he could spot a Jew just by the way he was dressed.
They considered Americans easy marks. “If only I can get to Amerika I can be rich.” They thought our laws were silly, our moral code naive. They are very rank oriented. As you may know the Soviet military had (has) little use for enlisted men, who did what they were told and did not talk back or offer opinions. The American military taught this as a major Soviet military deficiency by comparison. Seems to remain the case.
You know my strong preference for bringing in immigrants who want “to be American”. Usually a 2-3 generation process.
Andrew Jackson was a 1st generation Scotch-Irish immigrant from the Carolinas, was a great military officer, winning a major battle against the British at New Orleans in 1813, and on the strength of that went onto become the 7th President of the United States, co-founder of the Democrat Party, and introducer of the spoils system and idea of big government in Washington…without having a single ounce of understanding or caring about the founding purpose of America as laid out in the Constitution. We were just some big corporation which could be fleeced.
The history of America is long on people who came here rich and have yet to have to take a hammer in hand to fix anything around the house. It was a man named Jacob Schiff, a German banker sent here in the late 19th Century to “fleece” American banking by helping the government to control the way money moved around. He financially backed the Bolsheviks, was part of the banking cabal that helped Wilson form the Federal Reserve along European lines. A century later his family line has never had to accept the reality of hard-working “America”. Today we are now being inundated with IT specialists from Asia, where, much like Russia in 1992, there are no jobs at home that can pay them what they think they are worth. They too will never have to cut their own grass.
Nor should they be allowed to be the head of America.
There’s too much I can’t know to be judgmental about the Vindman boys. My best friend of many years came from a Slovak family in Ohio. West Point, wounded twice, he spent four years trying to get a clearance waiver to get into Military Intelligence all because he had a brother 20 years his senior who still lived in Czechoslovakia.
The issue wasn’t whether he would have split loyalties but whether the Communists could in some way use his brother as a pawn. He finally got in, but unlike Vindman was denied certain intelligence areas all because of that one red checkmark.
In my view Vindman should never have been allowed to even get close to the level of president-to-president dealings with Ukraine…in part because Ukraine’s government is likely corrupt no matter who’s in power, and likely will be for a very long time. Vindman also reflected a Ukraine-first, America-second bias which should have been anticipated in his testimony, along with a condescending tone about how non-professional Americans make decisions, even when its the President of the United States. Citizen or no, he really hasn’t let “being American” sink in.
Just let him retire.
Then see who hires him.