Why did Milwaukee-born Joseph Stone die in Ukraine?
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Russia’s war in Ukraine often seems distant and removed. The lack of attention the conflict receives is frankly unsurprising considering our president’s special affinity for Russian President Putin.
Rep. Gwen Moore
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Russia’s war in Ukraine often seems distant and removed. The lack of attention the conflict receives is frankly unsurprising considering our president’s special affinity for Russian President Putin.
But the consequences of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine hit closer to home than you might think. One year ago this week, Milwaukee-born Joseph Stone was killed by a landmine while serving as a conflict monitor there.
Stone, a paramedic, was part of an international team of monitors who serve as the world’s eyes and ears in a war that has claimed more than 10,300 lives and displaced millions of civilians. Every day, these brave, unarmed monitors, who operate under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, venture into a war zone to report the facts from ground zero of Russia’s continued aggression in eastern Ukraine. They bear witness to the horrific conditions for civilians, including a climate of fear generated by near-constant violations of the ceasefire, the indiscriminate use of landmines, and the damage to critical infrastructure that make daily life impossible.
In an era when perceptions about a conflict are often as important as gaining territory, unvarnished facts are fundamental to understanding the bigger picture. That’s why the Russia-led separatists do everything they can to prevent monitors from doing their jobs. Monitors like Stone, are often threatened with loaded weapons, physically blocked from conducting patrols and constantly subjected to equipment sabotage.
As a paramedic, Stone played an essential role. He provided immediate care to his fellow monitors when threats were acted upon and incidents occurred on patrol. Tragically, when the time came, his own was the life that was lost. Joseph Stone’s death must not be forgotten, and his work to document this tragic and continuing conflict must also be honored.
Putin and his cronies manufactured this conflict to keep Ukraine on its knees and assert their dominance. Putin, who continues to direct and fuel the conflict, bears responsibility for the intolerable conditions faced by civilians in the conflict zone, as well as the harassment and intimidation of the international monitors there to document it.
We need a president who has the strength to separate himself from his personal interests and stand up for human rights. We need a president willing to harness the power of diplomacy to convince Putin to end the threats to international monitors in Ukraine, who — as Joseph Stone’s death tragically demonstrated one year ago — risk their lives every day in the service of international peace and security. It’s time our president stop tacitly abdicating U.S. foreign policy to Putin and instead start pushing the Russian leader to take concrete steps to end the fighting in Ukraine, including those under the Minsk agreements, the path agreed to by all sides.
Gwen Moore, a Democrat, is a member of Congress representing Wisconsin's 4th congressional district. She is a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and has represented the United States at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
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