Why Average Americans Should Care About Helping Ukraine

Part of the current impeachment hearings involves Trump withholding congressional approved military aid to Ukraine, who is now engaged in a war with Russia. (My understanding is that Russia invaded and has annexed Crimea, which is a territory in Ukraine.) I think most Americans can agree that this act of aggression is wrong, and I think they can understand, on some level, that withholding aid to a U.S. ally like Ukraine, in their current situation is troubling. However, I’m not sure most Americans understand how helping Ukraine is in the interests of average Americans. I was going to write a post to make a case for this, but I think the following Time article is a good start. Here’s a key excerpt:

…an effective Ukrainian defense against Russian aggression raises the cost of that aggression and (crucially) raises the perceived cost of future aggression.

A Russia that can simply walk over Ukraine is a stronger Russia – a nation that one day may feel emboldened to take even greater risks to secure regional dominance and strain the western alliance. A Russia that is bogged down in a fight against a well-armed foe is less likely to seek another fight – especially a fight with much higher risks.

In my opinion, what the author, David French, is talking about is a lesson from World War II–namely, when one country invades or annexes another, that act of aggression must be rebuffed quickly at the beginning. If not, the aggressive nation will likely act aggressively in the future–until another country(ies) push back hard. The thing is, if you wait too long, the initial aggressor might become really powerful–powerful enough to be a threat to the U.S. In the case of WWII, the U.S. eventually had to join the war–paying a significant price in blood and treasure.

Instead of sending U.S. troops to fight in a massive war, wouldn’t it be better to arm Ukrainians, helping them stop Russian aggression before it escalates? I believe this is one reason helping Ukraine–in terms of helping them defend themselves against Russian aggression–matters to average Americans.

There’s also another, more abstract, but no less important, reason. And I’ll try going into that in the next section later.

4 thoughts on “Why Average Americans Should Care About Helping Ukraine

  1. A tweet from the Ukrainian ambassador to Austria:

    What is the world order? That’s a complex and abstract system, but let me point the one concrete, critical element of it that should be easy to understand–namely, the idea of internationally recognized borders, i.e., the geographical boundaries of a nation. Part of the world order involves other countries recognizing and respecting those boundaries. If a nation violates these borders by invasion or annexation, that can be seen as a weakening or an attack on the world order. If this happens repeatedly the current world order will break down. Putin has done this twice in the last 15 years or so–once in Georgia and once in Urkaine–and Ukraine and Russia are in military conflict (war) currently over the territory that Russia annexed (Crimea).

    Because of this, I think it’s reasonable to say that Putin is fighting the whole world order. If he’s allowed to violate internationally recognized borders, then others will too. Pushing back and stopping these actions strengthens the idea that borders should be respected. Why should average Americans care about that? Well, when borders aren’t respected–when powerful nations have license to evade or annex any country or region, that increases the chance for war. War can hurt the average American economically and if the U.S. has to get involved then average Americans who serve in the military may have to be put in harm’s way. This is about wanting a world based on agreed upon rules or a world where the strong get to make whatever rules they want. There are two choices–the U.S. can work towards one or the other.

  2. I didn’t get to read this article, but the idea attributed to Putin–liberal democracy has lived it’s usefulness–leads me to the more abstract reason for supporting Ukraine, both in terms of becoming a functioning liberal democracy and fighting against Russian aggression. If Ukraine succeeds as a liberal democracy that would greatly undermine the narrative above. My understanding is that Putin pushes this narrative to combat the unrest and demand from the Russian people for more respect of civil liberties and reduction in corruption–i.e., a ldemand for a liberal versus illiberal democracy. If Ukraine succeeds as a liberal democracy, Russian citizens can rightly point to it and say, “We want that, too!” That’s a threat to Putin–and all autocrats.

    Why should Americans care about this–especially Americans who are unmoved by other countries wanting freedom and democracy? The answer is that functioning liberal democracies create a more stable world, where trade is more likely and major wars are less likely. Translation: This increases the chances for a better economy and standard of living for the majority of Americans, while reducing the chances of having to send one’s children to war.

    Now, international trade has hurt some Americans. And there are still Americans are still sending their children into dangerous conflicts. But more authoritarian regimes can make matters worse. America faces two options–a world moving more towards liberal democracy or a world moving away from it, towards illiberal or authoritarian states. The former is much better for average Americans in my opinion.

  3. I haven’t seen this episode yet, and I don’t know if Mr. Taylor would agree with what I wrote above, but he believes supporting Ukraine is in U.S. interests, and I hope he articulates that in a way that anyone can understand. Same with hybrid warfare and how that is a serious threat to our country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *