Last month, I had the honor of traveling to Germany, Poland and Lithuania to meet with American service members and hear from high-level government officials on the state of democracy in Europe while Russia wages war against Ukraine. I returned to the United States with the reassurance that our partners and allies’ commitment to defending freedom and defeating tyranny has only grown stronger. I am also returning from Europe with a challenge for our nation to lead the world in standing for human rights.
It is time for America to lead our freedom-loving partners across the world to renew our commitment to “never again,” support the massive humanitarian efforts underway to aid Ukrainian refugees and those who are helping them, and forcefully condemn the genocide occurring at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.
In 2005, my wife, daughters and I spent two days visiting the Auschwitz memorial and museum in Poland. Anyone who has had the opportunity to walk the grounds of that place will tell you how overwhelming it is to confront the horrors that occurred there. It is out of these horrifically dark places that the phrase, “never again,” was born.
Following the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the world pledged to “never again” allow genocide to take the lives of innocent people. But today, Mr. Putin is choosing that path.
When I returned to Poland last month, I had the solemn honor of participating in a Holocaust memorial ceremony, alongside U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski in what was formerly the Warsaw Ghetto, and laid a wreath there to honor the Jewish people who fought the Nazi occupation. I also visited a refugee center serving the thousands of Ukrainians forced from their homes and who have been welcomed with open arms by the Polish people.
During the ceremony, and as I walked through the refugee center, my thoughts constantly turned to the atrocious attacks on Mariupol. The leveling of that city and the mass graves found there and in Bucha cannot be ignored or dismissed as part of the war. These are crimes against humanity. Children are dying, families are dying precisely because they are Ukrainian and won’t do what the dictator Putin wants them to. This is genocide.
“Never again” was promised, but world leaders are failing.
I thank God for the incredible hospitality of the Polish people to welcome these Ukrainian families. I am grateful, too, for what other European countries are doing to help them.
Now, we must do everything in our power, using our voices, actions and resources, to support these humanitarian missions and forcefully condemn Mr. Putin’s genocide in Ukraine.
Whether we like it or not, we need to recognize the evil in our world. It exists in the governments of communist China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Russia. They want a different world, one where the enemies of democracy, human rights and sovereign nations issue the orders and the United States and our allies do what we are told. They will bully and crush anyone in their way if they are allowed. I for one, and I know I am not alone, will not accept this.
Out of this terrible conflict, America has an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the security and independence of democratic nations, strengthen our energy and industrial independence and partnerships with fellow democracies, and stop genocide, renewing the promise of “Never Again.” We cannot allow this moment to pass without action. The protection of human rights and the survival of democracy and the United States depends on it.
• Republican Rick Scott represents Florida in the United States Senate. He is the former governor of Florida.