In 1939, Nazi tanks stormed across the German border into Poland. In a matter of weeks, half of Poland was under German control. Promises from the French and British to come to Poland’s aid were never fulfilled. The United States, guided by isolationism, was worlds away from everything happening in Europe. Poland was left to its hopeless fate. It was left to charge newly developed tanks with cavalry and rifles. A year later, German tanks would again cross another border, this time into France. The German army captured the country in less than six weeks, and with it they controlled most of mainland Europe. These actions would change the course of the world, committing the world to half a decade of war.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one of the most horrendously consequential events of the 21st century. Its effects can be felt in every part of the globe. Prices of many critical commodities, including fuel, fertilizer, wheat, and oil have skyrocketed. It has resulted in food shortages in much of a developing world that relies on Ukrainian grain in order to feed its citizens.
In launching the invasion, Russia’s purpose is clear and twofold: to erase Ukrainian cultural identity and its economic independence. Those who believe in this war don’t believe that the independent nation of Ukraine even exists. They see it as just another Oblast of Russia. They also see Ukraine’s growing economic independence as a threat to their hegemony over Eastern Europe, and other former Soviet nations.
Until late 2013, Ukraine maintained strong economic ties with Russia. When it was proposed that the country join the European Union free trade block, the Russian government vehemently objected and forced the Ukrainian government to backtrack from any attempt to form closer relations with the European Union. The Ukrainian people then took to the streets, giving birth to the Euromaidan demonstrations and eventually a revolution that toppled the Yanukovich government. Soon after, Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, depriving Ukraine of its sovereign territory and a key economic resource. This was followed by an uprising of Russian-backed separatist movements in the Donbas region, a key mining and industrial region of Ukraine.
Keeping in line with this, one of the main objectives early in the current war was to capture the port city of Odessa, and deprive Ukraine of any access to the Black Sea, and thus international waters. The Russian military has also been hijacking and selling stolen Ukrainian grain shipments. In conducting this war, together with their previous actions, the goal has been to systematically destroy Ukraine’s economy, and rob Ukraine of its independence. In taking this drastic step, the Russian military threatens the global food supply, as Ukraine supplies a good chunk of the world’s grain. Even though corridors to continue grain shipments have been secured, attacks still continue on major port cities like Mykolaiv and Odessa. The Russian navy still patrols the Black Sea unabated. Russia’s position on the United Nations Security Council, and its ability to unilaterally withhold support for the free shipment of Ukrainian grain, means it can continue to effectively hold the food supply as a hostage. As of this writing, the Russian military has suspended its cooperation with other countries to secure corridors for the shipment of grain.
This is why it is critical to continue to support the Ukrainian war effort. Russia cannot be allowed to hold the stomachs of millions of people hostage. The international community cannot allow any aggressor states to wage wars of conquest unrestricted, with little cost. To back down now and abandon Ukraine would bring a victorious Russian army to NATO’s doorstep. Those who support the vision of the invasion seek more than just the occupation and consumption of Ukraine. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were once provinces of both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, along with Poland and Moldova. All of these countries face a similar threat. Why? In considering the goal of this war, which is to occupy Ukraine and make it a part of Russia once again, we have to consider the ideological motivation. Russian nationalism is consumed with the idea of recreating the Russian Empire and avenging the collapse of the Soviet Union. If Russia is allowed to prevail in Ukraine, it will be empowered to seize more territory, whether by force or by other means.
So why should we care? Why should an American be worried about this? What effect does it have on us? After all, Ukraine is thousands of miles away. What happens there shouldn’t be something we worry about, right?
That’s what some important politicians here would like us to think. Some members of Congress in the U.S. have been openly critical of sending money and arms to the Ukrainian government. Representatives like Kevin Mccarthy believe that with inflation being such an issue, people won’t exactly be appreciative of writing a “blank check” to Ukraine. Other, older Republican and Democrat members are in line with the President’s continuing support. Unlike other issues facing the electorate, there is a stronger degree of unity among partisans in continuing to fund the Ukrainian war effort, with a number of both Republican and Democratic delegations having made visits to Ukraine. Still, some younger, louder and increasingly influential members of Congress have questioned our support for Ukraine and have been increasingly vocal about taking steps that could potentially put that aid in jeopardy.
Stopping our support for Ukraine would have a disastrous effect on not only the US economy, but the world economy as a whole. It would prolong the war and expand its global impact. It would erase any reason for the Russians to lift its blockade of Ukrainian ports, and would permit the Russians to continue as they see fit. Most importantly, it would be a signal to the world that the United States has tapped out, and other Western countries would likely follow suit. Countries like Germany and France are anxious to resume supplies of natural gas from Russia in order to ease their domestic energy crises.
In short, it would be the very thing Russia wants. The United States succumbing to isolationist tendencies would be a gift. They are counting on a collapse in U.S. support, and the resulting hesitation from other nations to continue their support of Ukraine’s war effort.
As I write this, the war is at a critical juncture. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have retaken large swathes of territory in the Kharkiv region in the northeast, and have pushed Russian forces into a pocket on the northern bank of the Dnipro river. Aided by sophisticated NATO artillery systems and weaponry, they have managed to put Russian troops in something of a strategic bind, and will likely retake most of the occupied territory west of the Dnipro river. However, in light of Ukrainian advances, the Russian military has begun a systematic campaign of cruise missile and drone attacks on critical civilian infrastructure. In the past week alone it has targeted over a dozen electrical plants or substations, and caused entire cities to go dark. This is particularly ominous, given that winter is fast approaching, and continued attacks may leave millions of Ukrainians without access to heat, water or fresh food.
At this time, when the war is at such a turning point, it is important to maintain support for the Ukrainian war effort. Without it, Ukraine, and the world face drastic consequences. The course of this war determines whether much of Eastern Europe will remain free of Russian hegemony. Whether the world will have access to the grain it relies on. By supporting the Ukrainian war effort and making the cost too high for the Russian government, we can hope to end this war sooner, rather than later.