Johnson's term of office consists of stratagems to avoid funding Ukraine.  He and a minority of Trumpist Republicans have left Ukrainians without the means to defend themselves and enabled Russian aggressors to retake Ukrainian territory.  As a result, troops are killed and disabled every day.

Around the world, Johnson's behavior is seen as betrayal and weakness.  We tend to focus on the details of Johnson's various excuses, rather than seeing the larger pattern.  Johnson's success in making the war a story about him exemplifies the American propensity to miss the big picture.

Alive?  Thank a Ukrainian.  The great American capacity is to take others for granted, and our specific form of hubris blinds us to the great services others perform for us.  The resistance of the Ukrainian armed forces and Ukrainian civil society is holding back every form of modern catastrophe.  Ukrainians are preserving an order established after the Second World War, but also pointing the way towards a brighter future.  Their tremendous daily efforts have pushed the world toward a set of better alternatives we would all lack without them.  But they need us at their back.

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An elementary form of apocalypse is genocide.  Russia is making war on Ukraine with the genocidal goal of eliminating Ukrainian society as such

It consciously fights its war with its own national minorities, and takes every opportunity to spread racist propaganda (including about African-Americans).  Russian occupiers deport Ukrainian children, rape Ukrainian women, castrate Ukrainian men, and murder Ukrainian cultural leaders with this purpose in mind.  They keep children out of school and force families into emigration, all with the goal of putting an end to a nation. 

Russia’s Combat Losses in Ukraine Up by 1,100 in Past Day, Per Kyiv Government
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Russia’s Combat Losses in Ukraine Up by 1,100 in Past Day, Per Kyiv Government

Official Russian losses according to Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) General Staff, as reported to the Ukrinform state news agency. Human casualties include those killed and wounded, unable to fight.

Ukrainian resistance, though, has put the backbone into "never again."  Where Ukraine holds territory, and that is most of the country, people are saved.  Ukrainians have shown that a genocide can be halted -- with the right kind of help. When we cut off that help, as we have done, we enable genocide to proceed.  This is not only a horror in itself, but a precedent.

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A great fear of our age is nuclear war, and Russia has used nuclear blackmail against Ukraine.  Russians want Ukraine (and the rest of us) to give up because Russia has nuclear weapons.  Russian propaganda instructs that a nuclear power cannot lose a war. 

This is of course untrue.  The U.S. lost in Vietnam, the USSR lost in Afghanistan.  Nuclear weapons did not hold the British and French empires together, or bring Israel victory in Lebanon.  Had Ukraine submitted to Putin's nuclear blackmail, this would have incentivized every country to build nuclear weapons: some to intimidate, some to prevent intimidation. 

A vendor shows a traditional Russian wooden nesting doll, Matryoshka doll, depicting Russia's President Vladimir Putin and US President and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at a gift shop in central Moscow on November 3, 2020.Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP 

Ukrainian resistance has saved us from this scenario -- thus far.  Should America abandon Ukraine, we can expect nuclear proliferation and nuclear jeopardy.

Another traditional worry has been a Russian attack upon a European country that triggers the collective defense provision of the NATO alliance.  For now, Ukraine is making this all but impossible.  Ukraine has absorbed an attack by Russia.  At horrible cost, Ukraine is fulfilling the entire mission of NATO, thereby sparing all other NATO members any risk of loss of territory or of life. 

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The NATO economies are about two-hundred and fifty times as big as the Ukrainian economy.  If they exploit a tiny fraction of their economic power, they could easily sustain the Ukrainian armed forces.  Unfortunately, the largest by far of these NATO members, the United States, is doing nothing.  Should this continue, and should Russia win its war in Ukraine, then further war in Europe becomes not only possible, but likely.

For the past two decades, the main concern in Washington, D.C. has been a war with China in the Pacific over Taiwan.  Never was this concern more pressing than in February 2022, when Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  Putin had just received China's blessing for his adventure.  Had Ukraine fallen, as so many expected, it would have been a signal that other such adventures were possible.  Ukraine's endurance has made clear that offensive operations are unpredictable and costly. 

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Ukrainians are achieving what we could not, as Americans, achieve ourselves: sending a counsel of caution to China without in any way antagonizing the Chinese.  Of course, should Ukraine be abandoned by its allies, and should Russia win, our earlier fears would return, and rightly so.

Russia is testing an international order.  

The basic assumption, since the Second World War, is that states exist have borders that war cannot alter.  When Russia attacked Ukraine, it was attacking this principle.  Russia's rulers expected that a new age of chaos would begin, in which only lies and force would count. 

The consensus in Washington, we should remember, was the same.  In the beginning, the American leadership expected the Ukrainian president to flee and for the country to fall in three days.  Every day since the fourth day is one in which Ukrainian blood has bought for us a future that we ourselves did not think we had.  After two years, too many of us take this for granted.  But if we decide not to help the Ukrainians, disorder will ensue, and prosperity will collapse.

For the past half century, people have been rightly concerned about global warming.  Whether we get through the next half century will depend upon a balance of power between those who make money from fossil fuels and lie about their consequences and those who tell the truth about science and seek alternative sources of energy. 

Vladimir Putin is the most important fossil fuel oligarch.  Both his wealth and his power arise from natural gas and oil reserves.  His war in Ukraine is a foretaste of the struggle for resources we will all face should Putin and other fossil fuel oligarchs get the upper hand.  Precisely because Ukraine resisted, important economies have accelerated their green transition. 

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Should Ukraine be abandoned and lose, it seems unlikely that there will be another chance to hold back fossil fuel oligarchy and save the climate.  More broadly, Putin's idiotic nation that there is no Ukraine is an example of the kind of oligarchical fantasy wastes time and destroys life as we try to confront the world's actual problems.

Global hunger is an important scenario for catastrophic global suffering in an age of drastic inequality and resource strife.  Here no country is more important than Ukraine.  For more than two thousand years, since the ancient Greeks, the fertile soil of Ukraine has fed neighboring lands and civilizations.  Ukraine today is capable of feeding something like half a billion people.  Russia's war against Ukraine has also been a hunger war.  Russia has mined farms, flooded others by destroying a critical dam, targeted grain-storage facilities, and blockaded the Black Sea to prevent exports. 

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In 2023, Ukraine was able to win an astonishing victory, clearing the western Black Sea of the Russian navy, and opening lanes for export of grain.  Because the Ukrainians did this on their own, it has hardly been covered in our press.  But it is a huge achievement.  People in the Near East and Africa are being fed who might otherwise starve.  If Ukraine is allowed to fall, all of this can be reversed, and suffering and war will spread to those vulnerable and critical areas.

From a different perspective, people fear that our world can end as a result of artificial intelligence, digital propaganda, and the collapse of the human contact needed for political decency.  For a decade now, Russia has been in the forefront of digital manipulation.  Its first invasion of Ukraine, in 2014, was successful chiefly as a hybrid war, in which it found vulnerable minds in the West and inserted useful memes -- ones which are still in use today.  And Russia does find backers today among the digital oligarchs, most notably Elon Musk, who has bent his personal account and indeed his entire platform to become an instrument of Russian propaganda. 

That said, the Ukrainians have, this time, shown how this can be resisted.  Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders, by taking personal risks in time of danger, have reminded us that there is a real world.  And Ukrainian civil society has this time taken a playful approach to new media, deconstructing Russian propaganda and reminding us of the human side -- and the human stakes.

Perhaps the most insidious calamity we face is one of doubt: we cease to believe in ourselves, as human beings with values, who deserve to rule themselves in the system we call democracy.  

For most of this century, democracy has been in decline, and this decline has been accompanied by a discourse of passivity and a lack of resolve. 

Russia's attack on Ukraine -- the rare event of an armed autocracy seeking to destroy a peaceful democracy by military force -- was a turning point in this history.  Which way we will all turn remains to be seen.  By resisting on the battlefield, Ukraine has, for the time being anyway, preserved its own democracy, and given new hope to democracies in general. 

There is nothing automatic about democracy.  People have to believe that they should rule.  And this will always involve some risk.  By taking great risks for the right values, Ukrainians can and do encourage others around the world.  If Ukrainians are killed, maimed, and forced to retreat as a result of U.S. policy, everyone is demoralized -- including us.

If Americans let Ukrainians down, it will be a blow, perhaps a fatal one, to the "spirit of freedom," as a Ukrainian veteran put it in a speech I heard at the Munich Security Council.  We need that spirit, in part to oppose those who lack it.  The people who block aid for Ukraine today wish our own democracy ill.  In the last few days and weeks we have witnessed, again and again, the overlap between Russian influence in American politics, opposition to aid to Ukraine, and hostility toward the American constitutional system.  Putin knows that his only route to Kyiv passes through Washington, D.C., and he has acted accordingly.

The people working to assure the destruction of democracy in Ukraine also oppose democracy in America.  We have just experienced a bogus impeachment proceeding against President Biden, where the chief accusation (long ago discredited by Ukrainian and other journalists, incidentally) arose from a Russian agent. 

Mike Johnson is in a submission chain that passes through Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin.  

Trump presents himself as an admirer of Putin and had been his client, in one form or another, for a decade.  He has succeeded in conditioning the media by teaching his followers to shout "Russia hoax" whenever the subject comes up: but, all the same, Russia has backed him in every campaign and is backing him in this one.  Johnson's 2018 congressional campaign, for that matter, took laundered funds from a Russian oligarch, and Johnson was one of the congressmen most deeply implicated in Trump's attempted coup in 2021.

Ukraine should and can win this war.  To do so, it needs arms and funds.  The amount needed of both is tiny on an American scale, not anything we would even notice.  It is the choices of certain Americans that have brought the Ukrainians to this cruel pass, and brought the world to the edge of multiple catastrophes.

Should we fail to assist Ukraine, we will be inviting the worst of catastrophes.  We will put the security of the world at risk and betray what is best about ourselves.  Americans can enable Ukrainian victory.  If we fail to do so, we will face an apocalypse Americans have chosen.  And, in particular, an apocalypse Mike Johnson has chosen.

Reprinted from the author’s blog: “Thinking about…” See the original here.

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

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