In the U.S., it is impossible to imagine another country violently forcing their will onto us and destroying everything we hold dear. For Ukrainians, that is their new reality.
The war in Ukraine has been raging for almost two weeks, and the stakes are only growing higher by the day. We all know that the war is a big deal, but how many of us understand just how important it is for the future of the free world?
It is difficult to overstate the weight of this war, both in terms of what has happened already and what could happen in the coming days.
In the simplest terms, the situation in Ukraine is gravely serious. On Feb. 24, Russia began an invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea. Russian forces surround Ukraine on three of its four borders and are drawing closer to capturing the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the largest conventional military excursion to take place on European soil since World War II. One of the most powerful nations in the world has illegally and inhumanely invaded a sovereign state without provocation.
Currently, NATO troops are being deployed to its Baltic member states. The U.S. has reinforced its military presence in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and even Germany.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened the potential use of nuclear weapons. According to Newsweek, U.S. officials are preparing for Russian cyberattacks.
The world has been sent into a tailspin by a war that is unjustifiable, despite the disinformation coming out of Russia. Namely, that Ukraine was the aggressor and that this war was necessary for saving Russian lives.
UN Human Rights officials reported at least 1,200 civilian casualties so far, and more than 1.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine. The Russian military is targeting everything from government buildings, apartment complexes, to children’s hospitals, according to The Washington Post.
Since the end of the Cold War, Ukrainians have fought to establish democracy in their country. They have sought alliances with the West through admittance to NATO and the European Union.
Today, Ukrainians are being punished for wanting a democratic future for their nation.
They are being punished for wanting freedom.
“We’re fighting for our way of life and your way of life,” said one Ukrainian citizen to CNN.
The way of life that is evangelized by the West, the United States in particular.
Ukraine is on the front lines of a battle not only for their own nation but for the sanctity of democracy abroad. Their resistance is not just against Russia, but against the very idea that sovereign democratic states can be conquered on the whim of an unhinged dictator.
This war is costly for Russian citizens, too. It has set in motion a series of crippling economic sanctions and social punishments that will likely cripple the future of the Russian people, not just their government.
The Western world (and some of its less Western allies) has galvanized support for Ukraine. For good reason, but within that support are crevices in the foundation of democracy and its purported principles.
The reality is that the West does not treat all wars the same. Especially wars in non-white areas of the world.
The unequal global reaction to the war in Ukraine versus violent conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America is staggering.
The reported racism taking place in the midst of Ukrainian evacuation efforts is abhorrent and has been appropriately condemned by the leaders of several African nations.
The democratic world is right to decry and attempt to halt the war in Ukraine. But in that, we must also recognize that the West approaches conflict in non-white regions differently.
Again and again, the West has ignored war, genocide, and refugee crises in places where the population is not light-skinned.
That hypocrisy is on display now. Unfortunately, the prejudice and racism seeping out of the war in Ukraine is yet another aspect of the sheer depth of human devastation that this war has unleashed.
If it were not unfolding before our very eyes, the scale of the human tragedy in Ukraine would be incomprehensible. The most shocking blow is that the institutions created out of World War II, like the U.N., to prevent wars precisely as this one failed.
This commitment was ignored. Our institutions failed. The West finds itself bound together by war, not peace.
From this failure, the preexisting global order has been burned to the ground. The international power structure that defined the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall no longer exists.
“We are entering a new era,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Parliament.
What this era will hold, we do not yet know. Regardless of how the war ends, the world has been irreversibly altered by the events that unfolded in Ukraine this last week.
So far, the West has shown that it will not fall. Nor will it let democracy fall.
At least, not for now.