As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stretches on, a large segment of the US population, cheerled by certain politicians, has become more vocal in opposing support of Ukraine. Governor DeSantis, who I will strongly support for President given the practical effects of his administration in Florida, recently expressed his position on Ukraine, also indicating hesitation and wrongly describing this as a territorial dispute. Woe be to Taiwan if this is the case. As usual, I think people often miss the big picture, particularly in foreign affairs.
We live on a world; it is one world, particularly in the modern age. As long as there is more than one geo-political subdivision on this world, there will be issues about relations between those subdivisions. How we think those relations are appropriately handled is critical to the entire world. Will we tolerate a world in which larger countries with strong militaries can impose their will on other countries through force, including literally taking the territory of those other countries, or will we insist that this use of force is not acceptable in any circumstances? Once there is a perception that use of force will be tolerated in some circumstances, it is inevitable that further conflict will occur.
Russia is led by a maniacal dictator, one who delusionally imagines that he can restore his country to some theoretical past empiric glory, the Soviet Union, or Tsarist Russia. He has no morals, no soul. Murder, rape, theft; these mean nothing to him. If he doesn’t perceive that there will be strong resistance to his actions, he won’t stop. The democracies on his border–Poland, the Baltic states, Finland–have reacted most strongly to the invasion because they know they are next in his grandiose empire-building plan.
It is deeply ironic that Putin refers to Ukrainians as “Nazis” to justify his invasion. Putin is our current Hitler. He is using the Hitler game plan. Saying he is protecting Russians in Ukraine. Claiming Ukraine was historically Russian territory. Demonizing Ukrainians. And he is as brutal as Hitler–slaughtering civilians, destroying everything in the country, forcibly removing and enslaving the population.
So what is the appropriate response? Do nothing, just watch this happen and pretend like it doesn’t affect us? How is this different than Kuwait? How will it be different than China invading Taiwan? Will we do nothing if Poland is invaded, or the Baltic states or Finland, even though they are NATO states?
It is beyond naive to imagine that we can ignore Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and not see consequences. But most importantly, it is a rejection of our obligations as humans to define the world we live in as one in which this kind of action is unacceptable, to resist it in the strongest possible terms. So it may seem far away, but it is far closer than you imagine.