As the world marks a full year of war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, many Americans wonder why the United States continues its support for the Eastern European nation. Even with all of their triumphs, the Ukrainians have suffered immensely, and the human and moral costs of this war are hard to grapple with. There have been unthinkable war crimes, cities decimated, tens of thousands dead, and millions of lives upended.
The war is clearly far from over, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia shows no interest in giving up.
Last spring 9 percent of Republicans polled thought we were providing too much support to Ukraine; now it’s 40 percent. Americans on the political right want that money spent at home (or not at all), and some on the left want to force Ukraine to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainians continue to impress the world with their tactical skill and fighting spirit. The victories they have won against Russia are thanks to the support of the strongest coalition of partners and allies since World War II, providing critical equipment and funds to fuel its fight. And it has been working: As President Biden said in his speech this week during his surprise visit to Ukraine: “Kyiv stands strong. Kyiv stands proud,” but most importantly, “Kyiv stands free.”
US intelligence saw this invasion coming when most of the world wished it away. Putting on my old Marine infantry officer cap on a trip to Ukraine in December 2021, what I thought myself was that the Russians would head straight to Kyiv, despite many suggesting they would continue their previous effort in the east. At the time, I argued that we needed to be more focused on deterrence than response, and now — despite Ukraine’s inspiring success on the battlefield — we must admit that deterrence failed.
Still, the skeptics’ questions have merit: How long will this go on? What will it ultimately cost? And how does this end?
There are three important reasons why the United States and its allies must see the Ukrainians to victory, despite the time and expense.
Winning prevents future wars. NATO kept the peace in Europe for over 70 years, and Putin is not the first Russian leader to put it to the test. We know what Putin will do if we don’t stop him in Ukraine because he’s shown us time and again: Chechnya in 1999, Georgia in 2008, Crimea in 2014, and now Ukraine. If a NATO country is next, American and allied troops will be fighting and dying.
Winning deters other authoritarians. Authoritarian leaders like President Xi Jinping of China are also watching closely. Xi has his sights set on neighboring Taiwan. If the United States goes to war over Chinese provocations against a US ally, Americans could wake up one morning with two aircraft carriers — and 10,000 American sailors — at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Demonstrating American resolve and our capabilities in arming allies has a direct parallel to future potential conflicts around the globe. After 70 years of peace, deterrence failed in Europe — we must admit that. We cannot afford to let deterrence fail in the Pacific.
Winning deters nuclear proliferation. There is perhaps no greater threat to life on earth than nuclear weapons, but nukes have also kept the peace between world superpowers by convincing both sides that war is not worth it. Now, Putin is trying to change that calculus. Not only did he just upend the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty, New START, he is using the threat of using nuclear weapons offensively — to try to win his illegal war. The implications of this for other authoritarian regimes that are building their own nuclear arsenals, not only China but countries like Iran as well, could be truly devastating for humanity.
These are important tenets of our national security that are worth defending, but there’s one more thing: Winning is the right thing to do.
Freedom is literally on the line for a heroic people. When Americans stand by Ukraine, we stand by the principles upon which our nation was founded, and for which young Americans over the centuries have fought and died: freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
Any veteran of war will tell you that war should be avoided at all cost. But sometimes you have to fight wars today to prevent worse wars in the future. A future of peace is what the Ukrainians are fighting for, and with the same hope for ourselves, we need to ensure they win.
US Representative Seth Moulton represents Massachusetts’ Sixth Congressional District.