Ukraine crisis calls for US help

Ukraine

Victoria Pickering | Flickr

Mia Gindis

As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops plunge deeper into Ukraine, western leaders and politicians are dealing with Russian aggression the same way they always have — by covering their ears and eyes.

On Feb. 24, Putin declared a “special military operation” in Ukraine, effectively starting the first major war Europe has seen in decades.

Within hours, Russian tanks invaded the country on three fronts, seemingly targeting the capital Kyiv. The initial wave of strikes appeared to involve cruise missiles, airstrikes and artillery that mainly struck military infrastructure, according to Ukrainian officials.

This attack came just days following a televised speech where Putin essentially denied Ukrainian sovereignty. When conflict began to materialize, he insisted that Ukraine should lay down its arms or be “responsible for bloodshed.”

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have already fled the country. As of Feb. 26, the death toll stood at 198, and more than 1,100, including children, have been wounded, according to Ukraine’s health minister.

Yet even as blood continues to soak Ukrainian soil, America and its allies have done little to help besides ordering various sanctions on the Russian financial system.

However, this measure will soon prove ineffective. Following Western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin began fostering a robust war economy that could withstand any sort of disciplinary action from the west.

Russia currently sits on a war chest of over $600 billion in currency reserves and has the least debt of any European nation, despite being the largest. Moreover, Russia is a major source of raw inputs, such as metals and minerals, and the European Union imports nearly 40% of its natural gas from Russia alone.

Thus, cutting off the world power is entirely implausible; however, President Joe Biden has made it sufficiently clear that he won’t be sending troops to engage with Russia directly either.

“The key to diplomacy is to limit the potential for war,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a national security and military analyst for CNN. “While the current war of Russian illegal invasion into Ukraine is tragic, chaotic and devastating, it is still a regional conflict.”

Hertling speaks to a fear shared by the United States and many of its allies, which is that American involvement in the war effort might inflame the situation, shifting it to a multinational conflict rather than a regional one.

Ukraine is also not a part of NATO since it does not yet meet some political and economic criteria required for membership. This means the United States has no obligation to come to its defense.

Regardless, by openly admitting that the United States will not, under any circumstance, send troops to Ukraine, Biden has given Putin the upper hand.

The implicit threat of United States and NATO intervention would have caused Putin to grapple with the consequences of further escalation. Now, he knows there is no such possibility.

Similarly, the United States had, at one point, denied Ukraine an advanced weapons system because it was too sophisticated for Ukrainian armed forces. Although Ukraine would’ve likely been unable to utilize this system to its fullest potential, it could have provided a much-needed advantage.

This attitude toward international conflict is starkly contrasted toward the American attitude up until the end of the Cold War, when the United States effectively deferred Soviets for decades.

Now, the administration is taking a laissez-faire approach that is contributing to the suffering of millions of Ukrainians for the sake of maintaining a tepid relationship with the aggressor.

By refusing to act, America is undermining its status as the world’s greatest protector of democracy. Biden must, at the bare minimum, start making strategic threats, so Russia knows this war will not be a quick victory.

Rather, it will be a tough, strenuous battle of great political and economic consequence, one that Russia should be hesitant to prolong. America has been a passive observer for far too long.

There needs to be pushback now. Otherwise, the world will suffer later.