Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unjustified and evil. Putin is unleashing immense pain upon the Ukrainian people, upon his own Russian citizens, and has placed the entire world order in great danger. If nothing is done to stop the Russian advance, the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv will probably fall in the next couple of days. Putin ominously warned that if other countries attempted to stop the invasion, they would pay a “terrible price”, hinting at the use of nuclear weapons. Many European countries and the United States have begun to implement “severe economic sanctions” with the goal of forcing Putin to submit to acceptable international norms, but Russia’s immense oil and natural gas reserves give Putin great leverage with Europe. There are many key players who could take significant steps to reduce the pain, but they involve risk and cost. Here are some current options.
The United Nations should be the international police, yet it has structural weaknesses. The most obvious is that the five permanent members of the Security Council which includes Russia, have the power of the veto. By using this veto power, any one of these permanent members can thwart the wishes of the overwhelming majority of nations in the world. On Friday, the United Nations condemned the “brutal” invasion. Russia immediately vetoed that resolution. To complicate matters, this month it is Russia’s turn to preside the UN sessions. If the United Nations wants to be relevant in the future, it must get rid of this ridiculous veto power which has been so terribly abused.
NATO was formed to protect member nations. Its guiding principle was that an attack against any of the NATO countries would be considered as an attack against all the nations. “One for all and all for one.” The problem is that although Ukraine is friendly with NATO, it is not a member. Neither the United States nor any other member country is willing to send its own troops into Ukraine. It has been suggested that NATO declare Ukrainian airspace as a “no-fly zone” and prohibit Russia from dropping aerial bombs. It is possible that this would escalate the conflict into an all-out war, but it would probably save thousands of innocent civilians from bombing deaths. If Putin is not stopped now, other non-NATO nations in the region (like Moldova) would be easy targets for Russia’s expansion. Even NATO members (like Poland and the Baltic states) are vulnerable.
The United States and several European countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia, first in an attempt to deter Putin, and now with the goal of punishing his immoral actions. Some of these sanctions are significant, but they are too little and too late. They might influence Putin to come to the bargaining table in a few weeks, but, in the meantime, many Ukrainians will perish. As of today, these government leaders have stopped short of really punishing Russia. For example, sanctions could be imposed that would prohibit Russia from participating in the international banking system (SWIFT). This would lead to a scarcity of oil and natural gas in Europe and would cause prices to skyrocket. Are Europeans and North Americans willing to pay higher prices to stop an immoral invasion and the thousands of deaths it would cause?
Many Russians are showing through their protests that they do not agree with Putin’s invasion. They have taken to the streets and hundreds have been jailed. I admire their courage. I hope that there are thousands of Russian soldiers who recognize that this is not a justified war. They should refuse to kill because there is a higher authority than Putin. It might cause them to be demoted, imprisoned, or even put to death, but those that believe in Just War Theory have the moral imperative to disobey an unjust military order.
Many Ukrainians have already demonstrated their bravery. It is likely that President Zelensky will pay the ultimate sacrifice for his love of his people. Many are fleeing from the war and taking their families to Poland, Moldova, or other neighboring countries. We who are far from the conflict should do all that we can to open doors for these refugees. These are desperate times and call for great courage and action.