Russia’s vicious and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has rightfully drawn the condemnation of the world. Make no mistake – whatever other causes may exist, it is Vladimir Putin who began this war to extend his dictatorship and to resurrect the old Soviet Union. The Ukrainian people’s defiant and dogged defense of their country exemplify these words of Theodore Roosevelt.
TR’s heart, soul and perhaps body would have been with Ukrainians as they fight for their freedom. We Americans also need to embrace TR’s words and the attendant difficulties ahead for us. Russia, as well as China, have shown the vaunted “international rule of law” to be simply an elitist illusion. They want to rewrite those rules to reflect the reality of great power competition at best and promote their authoritarian models at worst
If America wants to win this fight, we must accept the sacrifices necessary to build our military and economic resources while working to end the Ukraine invasion. The President’s promises in his State of The Union speech to ease the effects of sanctions does this cause no good. The best way to show American resolve is to declare an immediate embargo on Russian oil and other imports and force Russian oligarchs to divest their American assets. We can then unify to cover the shortages with our own oil & gas as much as possible.
We also should immediately end NASA’s partnership with Russia and demand they vacate the International Space Station. The Bush-Clinton-Obama Administration’s reliance on Russia for access and operation of the ISS is one of the worst strategic decisions in American history. Thanks to SpaceX and other commercial entities, we now have our own launch platforms for access. There may be, however, other operational issues that were improvidently assigned to the Russians. If so, it is time for an “Apollo 13” moment where American engineers meet this crisis with the determination and ingenuity that marked the Apollo moon landing program. We can do it and we must.
At the same time, Russia needs an incentive to negotiate an acceptable peace with Ukraine. The West should thus telegraph to Putin that the barrage of economic sanctions will be eased when such an agreement is reached (see this article). Without such an “off-ramp”, Putin will not only continue the war, but perhaps even widen it to include the Baltic states, thus directly engaging NATO. This is a war we must prepare for, but are not yet ready to fight.
Russia’s invasion has galvanized world opinion against it and the brutal values it clearly stands for. The threat will not go away after this war has ended. Indeed, our current divisions and failure to prepare for it means we face three to five risky years of exposure. If America and democracy is to prevail, we must accept the sacrifices necessary to build the unity and strength of the American people. Remember that the Soviet Union fell because it lost the socioeconomic battle, not a military one. TR reminds us that if we build on the strength of our values, we will win yet again.