Ukraine’s resistance against the Russian invasion is “breathtaking and inspiring,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement as he ordered the Ukrainian flag be flown over the state Capitol on Monday.
While it is a “mostly symbolic” move, “make no mistake, in times of war and evil, symbols absolutely matter,” Cox said.
Cox began the statement by telling the story of first lady Abby Cox’s grandfather, Duffy Palmer, who was shot through the chest during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Palmer survived, thanks to a fellow soldier “who disobeyed a direct order to bring him medical attention.”
Looking back, Palmer wrote that he “cried like a baby” when he saw the American flag flying on Mount Suribachi — as captured in the iconic photograph.
“How I wish every American could always have those feelings for the flag that I experienced that day,” Palmer wrote.
“His wish is a poignant one,” Cox said, adding that he thinks Palmer would “find the divided America of today almost unrecognizable.” He said that the “greatest generation” was forged as “ordinary men and women met the moment” by sacrificing and standing up to the “evils of war.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine last week, Cox said “we have seen women and men being tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing. Fortunately, they are meeting their moment in ways that have brought tears to all of our eyes.”
“This is the stuff of legends,” he said, pointing to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying “I need ammunition, not a ride,” and an expletive-filled rebuke of Russia from Ukrainian soldiers defending an island in the Black Sea.
All are examples of patriotism, Cox said, and a “humble strength ... that overlooks a country’s flaws ... and sees the good worth saving.”
He said the unity and patriotism on display are reminiscent of “what America can be and has been at its very best,” a thread that has been lost since Iwo Jima.
“We argue and fight about so much stupid stuff,” Cox said. “Stuff that melts away when we see children sobbing as their dads say goodbye. Stuff that doesn’t matter when we see a young couple getting married so they can die together on the battlefield.”
“I had no idea that it would take us all becoming Ukrainians to remind us what it means to be Americans,” he said, calling it “almost surreal” to see such a nonpartisan and united response. He urged Utahns to “lean into the discomfort” of bipartisanship, saying “the world needs this.”
On Monday, Cox ordered the Ukrainian flag fly atop the Utah Capitol, “as a symbol that Utah stands in solidarity with Ukraine,” he said. “You are our brothers and sisters this day and always.”
Utah state leaders condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Earlier Monday, the full Utah Legislature unanimously voted to approve a resolution to denounce “Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” calling upon the Russian Federation to “cease fire and vacate the sovereign territory of Ukraine.” The resolution also urged the U.S. federal government “and its allies to take substantive action to punish the Russian Federation for its evil actions and restore peace in Europe.”
Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, got emotional when talking about Ukraine with reporters in a media availability, applauding Ukrainians for fighting to defend themselves from Russia.
“You can tell that they’re fighting and they’re defending with a purpose,” he said. “And you have great admiration and compassion for someone who does that. I’m a little bit in awe that they’ve been able to defend themselves so well.”
Adams’ voice strained when he said he felt “sick” thinking about families being “broken up” while making sacrifices for their country.
“Moms and children leaving. Husbands staying. Grandparents. A grandfather, 80 years old, shows up with some sandwiches in his briefcase and says, ‘Give me a gun, I’m fighting for my,’” Adams trailed off, pausing for a moment as he teared up, “‘I’m fighting for my grandkids.’”
He was referring to a photo that’s gone viral of a Ukrainian man who wanted to enlist in the army, tweeted by former First Lady of Ukraine Kateryna Yushchenko.
“How does that not get to you?” Adams said. “What’s happened is wrong.”
Someone posted a photo of this 80-year-old who showed up to join the army, carrying with him a small case with 2 t-shirts, a pair of extra pants, a toothbrush and a few sandwiches for lunch. He said he was doing it for his grandkids. pic.twitter.com/bemD24h6Ae— Kateryna Yushchenko (@KatyaYushchenko) February 24, 2022
Adams was also audibly frustrated and passionate about the U.S. providing economic aid to Europe, especially Germany, which has become especially reliant on Russia for natural gas.
“Try to get natural gas through California to a port to Germany. Our energy policies restrict that. It’s just a shame,” Adams said. “So what we did is we forced Germany, instead of being a good friend, to let Utah provide their natural gas, we forced them to go to Russia.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent the global markets reeling, but Europe’s energy market is in particular upheaval. Europe receives 40% of its natural gas supply from Russia, with most of it flowing through a pipeline managed by a Russian state-owned company that runs directly through Ukraine, according to Fortune.
“We sit here with the capacity of giving them natural gas, but we don’t have a port, we don’t have a way to get to it,” Adams said. “We need to change that policy. We have allies. We shouldn’t force Europe to be dependent on Russia. And we need to have an energy policy that allows us to take our excess natural gas, which we have a lot of, and get it to Germany. I’d like to see that change.”
Adams said the U.S. needs to “deal with this now.”
“It is a matter of not our national security, but the world’s national security. Energy is key to it,” he said.
Asked about California’s cold reception to Utah’s port proposals in the past, Adams acknowledged that it’s not a likely solution. “And it’s really sad. That’s why I say we need to rethink (policies).”
“We all love green energy,” Adams added, saying the U.S. is already taking big steps toward renewable energy. “But we should make the transition to renewables at the kind of costs and expenses that we’re seeing, especially as you see what’s going on internationally and nationally.”
Adams said that should be able to be done without raising gas prices or inflationary pressures.
“So I think our energy policy needs to be re-looked at, and I think we need to do it fast,” Adams.
One of Utah’s Democratic legislative leaders, Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, agreed with Adams, saying the U.S. needs to find a way to help, and a “good way” would be exporting some of its energy.
“We need to be strategic at this point, not only for the sake of Ukraine, but for the sake of the world,” Escamilla said, expressing concern that Putin “won’t stop” with Ukraine.
“In order for the world to unite, we need to find solutions because there is a codependency, unfortunately, on Russia. And that’s what’s been driving a lot of opportunity by this man, who needs a lot of mental help I’m sure, to stop the madness,” Escamilla said, referring to Putin.
Escamilla said the U.S. is in a “unique position.” States are limited in their ability to provide help, but Utah leaders want to “show our love.”
“This is a world crisis,” she said. “We can’t stop right now. We need to find solutions that are practical.”
Utah, along with other states, has already enacted a boycott on Russian products. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Saturday ordered all Russian vodka to be pulled off Utah’s state-run liquor store shelves immediately.