By Vincent DiFonzo ’25
Since assuming the presidency of the Russian Federation in 1999, Vladimir Putin has deliberately worked towards an invasion of Ukraine. Over the past two decades, Putin has built up the Russian military, tested his boundaries with the West and repeatedly provoked Ukraine.
In 2014, following the pro-democracy and pro-European Maidan Revolution in Ukraine, Russia invaded and occupied the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with almost no resistance. The diplomatic backlash from the West, including the United States, Canada, the European Union and NATO was swift. However, the actual repercussions were small and mostly symbolic. Since 2014, Putin has continued to cause chaos in Ukraine through his support for Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Despite years of warnings that Russia could invade Ukraine, the West still wasn’t ready.
Putin finally felt comfortable enough to launch his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. This is ultimately the fault of the West: NATO and the EU failed to properly respond to Russia’s slow buildup of power and aggression toward its neighbors. With war underway, the most important policy action that Western nations can take in 2023 is to support Ukraine not just through symbolic measures, but also by providing humanitarian aid, training and military supplies until the end of the war—no matter how long it takes.
Ukraine’s survival is both a diplomatic and moral victory for Western powers. The Russian military has committed countless war crimes against Ukrainian civilians, including the Bucha Massacre, in which Russian soldiers murdered hundreds of civilians. The invasion has displaced millions of Ukrainians, constituting the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. Russia’s illegal invasion solely benefits Putin and his allies. The West is morally obligated to come to the aid of Ukraine so they can continue to defend their people from Russian killings, sexual violence and the systematic destruction of their homeland.
Today, the West has the unique opportunity to take action before it is too late by supplying Ukraine the weapons and supplies they desperately need and isolating and crippling the Russian economy through effective sanctions.
International support for Ukraine has likely saved the country from collapse, but the war is far from over. It is vital that Ukraine does not lose support from the international community because the only path to Ukrainian victory is, unfortunately, a long one.
Some EU and NATO members, such as Germany, have acted more passively in support of Ukraine, hesitating to send aid. Before the war, skepticism of NATO and the United States was relatively high in Germany, and German reliance on Russian natural gas has proved incredibly problematic.
Here in the US, politicians and legislators have become increasingly skeptical of Ukraine, with former President Trump criticizing Biden’s decision to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine and the new Congress threatening to cut back aid. Pausing American aid to Ukraine would be disastrous—it’s exactly what the Russians want us to do.
However, the situation is improving elsewhere. The US, Germany and many other European nations have agreed to send hundreds of tanks to Ukraine, a reversal in previous German policy and an important turning point in Germany’s view on the war. In the long run, the only way to fully support Ukraine will be for EU and NATO members to become fully energy independent from Russia. If Putin’s last leverage over the continent, natural gas, disappears, he will have nothing left to hold over Europe’s head.
Ukraine should not—and likely will not—accept any outcome other than a complete expulsion of the Russian military from Ukrainian territories, including Crimea and the four regions “annexed” by Russia. This war can be the end for Putin. His strongman persona was his greatest asset in power, but the war has already destroyed this. Putin has shown himself to be an incompetent, bloodthirsty dictator who cannot lead a successful invasion of his much smaller neighbor. He has refused to accept defeat and has doubled down on targeting civilian infrastructure because he knows that he may face threats to his leadership if Russia fails to conquer Ukraine.
The war will drag on until Putin faces sufficient internal pressure to end the war or is deposed. Ukraine will need support from the West until this point. This is the West’s opportunity to close Putin’s chapter of history.
Our country can be a part of the end of the most powerful 21st-century dictator. We must elect representatives who vow to support Ukraine and reject those who succumb to Russian propaganda.