With President Zelensky’s famous utterance, “I need ammunition, not a ride,” the world recognized a remarkable leader. With my sympathetic suffering – albeit in the comfort of my home – I followed the horrors inflicted on the residents of Bucha, feared for Kyiv’s safety, grieved about attacks on Kharkiv, and suffered with besieged villagers in heat-deprived homes, with the defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, and the heroic but bloody defense of Avdiivka.

Wartime solace came with the sinking of the Moskva and Ivanovets, the iconic resistance on Snake Island and Ukraine’s regained control of it, citizens’ resistance in Kherson, the shootdowns of Russian fighter jets and helicopters, the destruction of Russian tanks, the collapse of Russian-built bridges, and drones’ torching of petrochemical refineries and terminals in Russia. Ukrainian resilience has been everywhere: troops in the trenches, partisan actions behind enemy lines, and Anna from Ukraine’s effective, witty war humor.

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I find no glee in wartime killings of Russian troops, whether on or behind front lines. Russian or Ukrainian, they’re human. Many killed Russians were conscripts wedged between Ukrainian forces in front and Russian guns behind. Dead Russians suffered the same types of burns and exploded hearts and brains, and they died from the same blood loss that takes down Ukrainians.

Yet, who invaded whom? For what trivial reasons? There were disagreements about language education in Russian-dominant parts of Ukraine before Russia’s invasions in 2014 and 2022. But by Russia’s wartime and pre-war behavior, there’s no wonder why Ukraine tried to stamp out a Russian sense of entitlement to empire.

Why Russia Cannot be Allowed to Win Against Ukraine
Other Topics of Interest

Why Russia Cannot be Allowed to Win Against Ukraine

“There is a war going on in Ukraine for the future of the whole of Europe:” Finnish Defense Minister, Antti Häkkänen, Dec. 24, 2023

Ukraine’s defense, outcome still unknown, will be written as one of history’s greatest fights of an idealistic lesser power resisting a greater unprincipled one. What will happen with American military aid to Ukraine remains to be seen. Robert Zubrin’s recent Kyiv Post Op-Ed article warned, in essence, that US Republicans risk everything by their stupidity.

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Recently, Trump literally invited and encouraged Russia to attack weak NATO members. Understandably, Ukrainians, other Europeans, and democracies around the world are nervous. Allies must use the next 11 months constructively and improve defensive postures, munitions stocks, and weapons manufacturing capabilities.

However, European responses should not give in to Trump’s objective to break NATO as fait accompli. He is not the President; he might never again be. Regardless of who wins in November, the US under Biden should use these eleven months to maximum benefit to help secure our Allies and America.

Strong democracies are needed regardless of Trump, but if Trump wins in November or otherwise secures the Presidency, then Putin’s Russia will test the world further.

Putin aspires to a forced reconstitution of the Soviet Union and destruction of Europe and America. Georgia and Ukraine were first on his target list; surely more would follow.

The murder by torture and neglect of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is proof enough of Putin’s evil, but it also shows that Putin still does not fully control Russia itself. We should pray that Russia recovers spiritually from Putin’s evil and reconfigures into a benign and prosperous people and nation(s).

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That hope is not unrealistic. Navalny’s courage and wisdom is still part of Russia, and it might again erupt, especially if Ukraine prevails.

Ukraine’s success to date has depended on steel spines and skillful and bold execution of the war; it has also depended on a global public perception of Ukraine being on the right side of “The Force.” Ukraine’s future success depends on maintaining a “good fight.” Recent history shows examples where countries migrated from, arguably, a good fight to a bad one:

1) On 9/11, the US was brutally attacked by al Qaeda. We responded ferociously, as surely required. The world offered sympathies and alliance in combatting al Qaeda and the Taliban. Then a false pretense was given to rationalize a second Persian Gulf war. Soon, reports came of torture in American and some allied nations’ POW prisons. Perceptions of moral equivalence became more vivid with time. International support gradually dried up.

2) The Syrian democratic opposition to Assad’s regime started with a good fight. Then, in desperation, and after severe fighting between opposition groups, some democratic forces made a de facto alliance with an al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. Everything went dark. The noble fight lost its ideals and the war seemed to become just another brutal fight of one bad versus another.

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3) Israel suffered from Hamas, culminating on Oct. 7. Hamas’s atrocities were of such a scope and brutality that it looked like attempted genocide. Israel had global sympathies and much active support. Israel had to respond, and not lightly. Netanyahu responded with increasingly indiscriminate violence, arguably Israel’s own and bigger genocide against Gaza, still ongoing. Initial support transitioned to various shades of opposition – some strident – from the international community, even allies.

Despite Russian provocations that could cause Ukraine to lash out on the dark side, by staying as morally upright as any war allows, Ukraine will increase its chances of retaining international support. Ukraine should never counter Russian war crimes with needless equivalent actions. Fight hard, fight effectively: burn Russian refineries, burn their tanks, sink ships, do what a war requires when attacked. Ukraine’s most powerful strategic weapon is moral strength and clarity. Remain humane with focused targeting, minimized civilian casualties, and proper treatment of prisoners. As a war grinds on, the dark side’s temptations could destroy an otherwise noble cause.

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When this is over – it will be over someday – Ukrainian attentions will shift to demining, rebuilding, and healing; to sunflowers, wheat farms, and coffee shops; traveling freely and safely; creating and enjoying art and bringing Ukrainian art back to Ukraine; developing sustainable energy, fighting climate change, exploring space, preserving nature, and being joyous humans. Most importantly, Ukrainians families will be reunited. 

Keep up the good fight.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

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