Writer shares his opinion on the outlook on the war in Ukraine and what to do.
BY GEORGE BERNARD ’23
*Given the nature of the subject, it is important to note that this was written on March 5.
For weeks now, I have been glued to the news coming from Ukraine. After months of warnings from the Biden Administration, on February 24, Russia launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine.
The army and people of Ukraine have fought heroically, slowing the onslaught of the Russian army, but just because Ukrainians are putting up a good fight doesn’t mean that they can or will win. They are outnumbered and under equipped, and pure bravery cannot solve those problems. This is where America and our allies can help. We have been providing weapons to Ukraine, but it is still not enough. We have the resources and logistical capabilities to help Ukraine, and we need to act now because time is of the essence; the Russians are capturing more cities and villages every single day without any evidence that they will stop short of full scale occupation and toppling the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.
I am aware America has a history of getting dragged into unwinnable “forever wars”—Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind, but this is different. The people of Ukraine are actively fighting an aggressor, and they have sought closer ties with the West. The enemy is a country rather than a loose organization of extremists, and there is a clear objective to fight for: the sovereignty of Ukraine.
While I am not qualified to dictate the exact strategy that the United States Armed Forces and our allies should take, I can tell that the current situation is untenable. The sanctions from the Biden Administration and our allies will hurt Russia, but they are not a sufficient response to the war crimes being inflicted on the citizens of Ukraine. Economies are large and slow moving systems, and as a result, the sanctions will take time to truly inflict pain on the Russian economy.
We need to punish the people responsible for these atrocities now.
Russia’s complete disregard for rule of law, national sovereignty and human life needs to be met with the full force of the U.S., U.K., NATO, Japan, Australia and other allies, not sanctions that exempt energy products and may take months to have a significant impact. Failing to do so would betray everything we stand for and send a dangerous message to dictators, tyrants and authoritarians around the world. If we are too wary of the consequences of high gas prices, will we fail to stand up for Taiwan for fear of harming our trade relationship with China?
I understand the hesitancy to directly involve our military or NATO and risk direct war with Russia, but there are other viable options that wouldn’t trigger Article 5 of NATO’s charter, the part that states that an attack on a member state will be treated as an attack on all members. These include allowing active members of our military to join the Ukrainian Army without consequence, sanctioning Russian oil and natural gas exports, establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, charging Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with war crimes in the International Criminal Court, and revoking the visas and passports of Russian oligarchs.
On the other hand, there may not be any advantage to trying to avoid a confrontation with Russia. Who’s to say that they stop at Ukraine? If we don’t put up enough resistance, they might try to take the Baltics next, using Kaliningrad, Russia, as a forward base.
My message to those in power: I sympathize with your honorable quest for peace. But history is not kind to those who appease war criminals.