Letter to the editor: A native Ukrainian’s perspective on the actions of Russia’s authoritarian regime

In recent days we have witnessed a turning point in history. An authoritarian regime in Russia has taken aggressive steps that threaten sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a rising democracy. What is at stake is not only the security of the Ukrainian nation: the aggressive rhetoric from the Kremlin’s leader also questions the very right of Ukraine and Ukrainian identity to exist.

Ukrainians will resist and defend their freedom, but they need help against the much larger enemy. This enemy at the border is not only theirs alone, but also the enemy of our country, the enemy of all humanity. Make no mistake, the appeasement of Russia’s actions will not help to stop its determination to violate the freedom of Ukrainian people. History teaches us that only a united, strong, and decisive effort can deter Russian aggression.

Soon after gaining independence, Ukraine has given up its nuclear status, and has been asking for security guarantees from the US and NATO but has never fully received them in fear that Russia will object. What we see today is the consequence of decades of cautious policy that allowed the aggressor to feel empowered. Ukraine is surrounded by hostile troops, while every US and NATO soldier has been evacuated to avoid confrontation with Russia.

Ukrainian people are taking up arms, standing alone on the front line, to defend the values of Western civilization. They are ready, but they did not invite this conflict. Are the people in the US prepared to watch them die for the truths Americans hold to be self-evident?

This is not a local issue that involves a border dispute between two countries far, far away in Eastern Europe. If Russia succeeds on its destructive path, there are global ramifications that will extend to everyone living today and to those in many generations to come. In the immediate future, the failure to stop this unprovoked war will clearly demonstrate that military power needs no justification. This will change the rules of global security and will lead to further escalation of conflicts elsewhere in the world.

Sadly, the current events are delaying our chance to address the global issues requiring focused and concerted attention and effort of all nations. Instead of dealing with the global issues of environmental contamination, pandemics, climate change, public health, lack of education, malnutrition, corruption, and social issues, we are forced to direct more and more resources to building up defenses and constructing deadly weapons that would deter rogue leaders and authoritarian regimes from trying to make power grabs for the expense of their smaller neighbors.

In the long run, only a democratic change within the Russian Federation could prevent further escalations of hostilities with its neighbors whose territories it will try to control. Unfortunately, under the current authoritarian rule the opportunities for democracy to take hold are limited. Meanwhile, the effort should be directed to resisting and denying the ability of enrichment of the current regime in Russia while helping Ukraine as well as other democracies in the region to defend themselves and continue building their civil societies and market economies.

It is not a small task, but it must be done. If the US successfully builds, supports, and maintains a united, strong, and decisive effort of supporting these democracies, the people of Russia will see that despite the propaganda claims they have been fed by their ruler, the successful democratic alternative is viable, and they can and should make a choice for themselves.

I know that this will take a long time, but I am looking forward to that day.