- - Monday, March 21, 2022

Nearly four decades ago, John Milius shocked the world with “Red Dawn,” the unforgettable story of a Soviet invasion of the United States and the young Americans who risk their lives to mount an armed resistance from the Rocky Mountains to save their homeland.

For those of us who saw the movie in our youth amid Cold War tensions with the Kremlin, the movie was an inspiration that left an indelible impression on all of us. Millions of young Americans adopted the war cry, “Wolverines!” now recognized worldwide as a rallying signal against tyranny.  

In Mr. Milius’ vision, the Soviets ally with communist regimes in Cuba and Nicaragua to exploit America’s unprotected southern border and occupy part of the U.S. Not surprisingly, “Red Dawn” was labeled as “virulently alarmist” by The New York Times upon its release in 1984 and is still called “paranoid” by Apple TV today. 

But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Soviet-style invasion of Ukraine has proved them wrong. What has unfolded there could not be more reminiscent of the strategy and horror depicted in Mr. Milius’s vision, but also the realization of his message that force does not win the hearts and minds of people. It only unifies a nation.

Ukraine’s heroic story shall end just as Mr. Milius wrote in “Red Dawn” — with Russian defeat.  

Mr. Putin began his plan by lining up 190,000 along the Ukrainian border, hoping their presence would lead to a quick surrender from Kyiv. That didn’t happen, and now he is engaged in a dangerous war that has placed his troops in grave danger. 

This is because Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has built an army of the most dangerous kind of soldier — desperate civilians with heart, fighting for their freedom, their children and their lives, or as Mr. Milius would call them: Wolverines.

Some have suggested it is only a matter of time before Mr. Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people will lose, and to avoid further loss of life, they should concede now or surrender. History has proven them wrong. Because a superpower without the will to win is no match for an army of Wolverines.

We saw this same sentiment already in Afghanistan when, after arming the mujahedeen with the same stinger missile launchers we have sent to Ukraine, the Soviets lost there too. Their defeat led to economic peril and the collapse of the second most powerful nation on Earth — a trajectory Moscow is now on track to follow.

Irrespective of whatever ground Mr. Putin has secured thus far, Russia’s troops lack the will to win. What is the rallying cry for Mother Russia in this war? Those captured have expressed tearful apologies, admitting they didn’t understand why they were there in the first place. Some have explained they only advanced on Ukraine because they were told they would be shot for retreating if they returned to Russia

To say the least, Russia’s military morale is battered and on the brink. Ukraine has killed five top Russian generals, and Mr. Putin has arrested several others. The Russian military is exhausted, and Mr. Putin is financially broke in a shattered economy. British intelligence reports now say Mr. Putin’s illegal invasion is stalled on all fronts. Ukraine may not recover the ground it lost, but as long it avoids concessions or surrender, it will always preserve the legal and moral right to fight for it another day. 

Contrarily, Ukraine’s morale is surging with support from the free world. Leaders from Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia risked their own lives to stand with Mr. Zelenskyy. Ukraine may be a small country, but its bravery far outsizes Russia.

As Mr. Zelenskyy said to Congress, “Today, it is not enough to be the leader of the nation. Today takes to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace. Peace in your country doesn’t depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong doesn’t mean weak. Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world. For human rights, for freedom, for the right to live decently, and to die when your time comes. And not when it’s wanted by someone else. By your neighbor.”

Ironically to many, Mr. Zelenskyy is that leader of the free world now. The evidence of this is the thousands of people from his own country who risk their lives to fight beside him — and those soldiers from other countries who have traveled across the world to do the same. Mr. Zelenskyy’s army is not one ready for surrender or defeat. It is an army ready to win.

Ukraine will defeat Russia. Good will triumph over evil. And there will be a day on this Earth when Ukraine’s sunflowers will blossom under the sun again.

Until then, we as Americans should give Mr. Zelenskyy’s fighters all the moral support we can.

As Mr. Milius’ unrelenting, heroic young freedom fighters would have us say: “Wolverines!”

• Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is the former Director of the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the assistant commentary editor for The Washington Times. T. Michael Andrews is a former appointee of George W. Bush’s presidential administration.

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