The United States must give all assistance possible, short of sending actual troops into combat, to Ukraine. America is morally obligated, given its role in the nuclear disarmament of Ukraine in 1994. And should Ukraine fall to Russia too easily and without inflicting significant harm on the aggressor, America may find itself in an expanded European war, depending on what’s next on Vladimir Putin’s agenda. So the brave fighters of Ukraine are, in a real sense, fighting not only for their own country, but for America as well.
America has no treaty requiring American intervention with armed forces to protect Ukraine from Russian invasion. But America is morally obligated to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression because it pledged to help protect Ukraine’s national security and independence if Ukraine surrendered its nuclear arsenal. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine asserted its independence in 1991, it took possession of the Soviet Union’s nuclear missiles and heavy bombers on Ukraine’s territory, thereby acquiring the third largest nuclear arsenal of any nation on the planet. In 1994, following negotiations with the governments of the United States, Great Britain, and Russia, Ukraine agreed to destroy its nuclear arsenal and sign the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In exchange for nuclear disarmament, America, Great Britain, and Russia all pledged to respect Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity, to abstain from any aggression against Ukraine, and to assist Ukraine against any aggression from any other country. France and China subsequently pledged their support for Ukraine as well. Current events are showing how this all turned out.
But if America has no legally binding treaty to send our armed forces into actual combat to protect Ukraine, it does have a legally binding agreement to go to war, if necessary, to help other nations resist Russian aggression—Article 5 of the NATO treaty. America may need to honor its commitment to go to war if Russia conquers Ukraine at a cost acceptable to Moscow, given Vladimir Putin’s greater geopolitical goals.
Putin has said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the single greatest geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century. He seeks to acquire for Russia the power the Soviet Union once possessed. He considers the reconquest of Ukraine, the “decapitation” of its current government, and the installation of a puppet regime loyal to Moscow to be necessary steps to the restoration of Soviet/Russian hegemony. To continue to reacquire for Russia the power of the Soviet Union he may well try to reassert control over numerous NATO allies as well.
Especially endangered may be the three Baltic states: Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Once part of the Russian Empire, they first attained their independence following the overthrow of the Czarist regime and the end of World War One. But with the onset of World War Two, the Soviet Union under Stalin reclaimed the Baltic states. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the Baltic states once again reclaimed their independence. But Putin, in his drive to enhance Russian power, may well threaten their security as Stalin did. Given America’s treaty obligations, America cannot possibly avoid taking action should the Baltic states face Russian aggression, unless it wants to permanently destroy its credibility in world affairs.
Also of concern is the fate of our other NATO allies in Eastern Europe. Throughout the Cold War Poland, Czechoslovakia (now subdivided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, along with East Germany, were nominally independent yet actually ruled by communist dictatorships propped up and answerable to Moscow. Will Putin try to reestablish dominance over them? If so, how will America respond? One might question the wisdom of enlarging NATO in the first place and thereby committing America to the protection of nations especially vulnerable to Russian aggression. But America did so, and the obligation is real.
It’s unrealistic to expect Ukraine to successfully repel he Russian invasion and reassert its own independence from Russia. At best, one can hope that before Ukraine falls it can inflict so much damage on the Russian invaders that Putin will reconsider whatever plans he may have made to commit acts of aggression against our NATO allies, which would otherwise bring America and our allies in Western Europe into direct conflict, and possibly war, against Russia. We must therefore give Ukraine whatever aid we can to help it fight its war. After all, It’s our war too.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.