The War in Ukraine: Is It Important to the United States and You?

By 

Wesley Smith

|
April 26

6 min read

Foreign Policy

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Vladimir Putin is not deterred in his unprovoked and illegal attack on Ukraine. The war rages on, as do the violations of the Law of Armed Conflict.  Attacks on civilians and other atrocities continue without shame or apology.  Even though the Ukrainians have put up a fierce and effective defense and saved the capital of Kyiv—Putin is not finished and can still be victorious and make Russia even more powerful.

The emphasis has shifted from the north to the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine.  But Putin is not content to settle for a final victory in the Donbas region where Luhansk and Donetsk have a large Russian-speaking population. Putin also plans to eventually attack and occupy Odesa, Ukraine’s final remaining seaport on the Black Sea—cutting off Ukraine’s ocean access to continue shipping their massive exports of grain and other products.  It would land-lock Ukraine and commercially cripple the country.

However, Putin will not stop there. Russian Major General Rustam Minnekaev revealed the ultimate goal of Russia last week: “Since the start of the second phase of the special operation one of the tasks of the Russian Army is to establish full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine...[t]his will provide a land corridor to Crimea.”  But the general did not stop there.  He continued, “Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are cases of Russian-speaking people being oppressed.”  Yes, the excuse Putin has used for invading a sovereign, neighboring country is that he is liberating and protecting people!

However, the intention to “liberate” Transnistria indicates how far Russia is planning to go.  This region is a breakaway part of the country of Moldova.  For the Russians to go there means they plan to attack another nation, Moldova, which is a small country between Ukraine and Romania.  Moldova, like Ukraine, aspires to be more engaged with western Europe.  If the world allows this to happen, more Russian aggression will follow.

If Putin is willing to attack Ukraine and Moldova to protect and free Russian-speaking people—what is to stop him from attacking the Baltic states?  Three of them used to be part of the Soviet Union, have large Russian minorities, and are now members of NATO.  Does Putin intend to “liberate” these people, too?

History gives us stark reminders of how seemingly less-significant actions, and the free world’s response to these acts, can lead to unintended consequences and be the harbinger of major wars.  The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand led to World War I.  The peace treaty between Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Nazi Germany freed up the Germans to invade other neighboring countries—before breaking the agreement and invading Russia, too. When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain foolishly negotiated with Adolf Hitler and came home proclaiming “Peace for our time!” – it was an act of passive naiveté that led to World War II.

Military leaders from 40 nations meet in Germany this week to talk about Ukraine and coordinate support for the country.  Hopefully they will now understand there are many things worse than provoking Vladimir Putin.  Putin needs no provocations to expand his aggression and bring the world to the brink of a much wider war.  The Russian war criminal is impervious to world criticism and dismissive, so far, of the sanctions against his regime.  Putin’s appetite for conquest is large as he continues his attempts at reviving the glory that was part of the Soviet Union in his mind.  Rather than being deterred, Putin has deterred the leaders of these nations—especially the United States and our NATO allies—from taking robust action that would stop his unlawful and inhumane actions in Ukraine.

Over the last two months, the leaders of the free world have become more open and resolute in their support of Ukraine and their willingness to arm the Ukrainians.  More weapons and supplies are being shipped daily to beef up Ukrainian defenses.  But more can be done.

Short of putting U.S. or NATO forces on the ground, the West must give Ukraine everything they need to push back the Russians and ensure their independence.  In addition to U.S.-supplied artillery pieces that have anti-air capabilities and other countries giving them Russian-built antiaircraft missiles, the U.S. and NATO should revisit Poland’s offer to supply Ukraine with MIG-29 fighter jets.  Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) and conventional artillery will be needed as the Ukrainians fight to defend the eastern and southern portions of their country.

The entire world must unite in cutting off Russia from all international commerce and financial systems.  Europe in particular must cease purchasing any and all Russian energy.  The Biden Administration must reverse its ill-conceived energy policies, quick genuflecting to the climate alarmists, and realize the real emergency involves not only the climate—but international norms, European security and borders, and human rights.  To free Europe from dependence on Russian gas and oil, the U.S. must increase our own output so we can sell energy to our European partners.

It is quickly becoming apparent that more than Ukraine’s freedom is at stake here.  The safety and security of other European nations is on the line.  The unity and deterrent capacity of NATO is also in the balance.  Other potentially aggressive adversaries are watching to see how the world responds to naked aggression.  The unknown and unintended consequences of allowing Putin’s unprovoked war to go unchecked are too dire to adequately predict or comprehend.

The world must abandon its risk-averse penchant when it comes to contemplating how to respond to a man like Vladimir Putin.  We have seen men like him before, throughout human history.  We also know that weakness invites more aggression—it always does.  Timidity promotes bad acts by the enemies of freedom—it always has.  It is better to give Ukraine everything it needs than to risk a wider war by thinking we can somehow placate a tyrant in order to avoid war.

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