If we fail to support Ukraine’s struggle we all lose far more than self rule for 44 million people.
Ukraine has only been a democracy for 31 years and were it to be in some form victorious it would confirm the United Nations principle of self rule, enable its integration into the European Union, and would be massively empowering to good people confronting other global challenges.
A Russian win would extend genocidal policies across Ukraine, and render the European Union deeply weakened as a project or even as a concept, and provide a righteous surge to China’s rise that includes its influence in the Pacific which is utterly against our interests.
A Russian win in case you have ignored the war for the last 6 months, is very possible, with the Russian occupation growing in the east and south, and five million Ukrainian people have had to leave with nothing of their lives left but a suitcase or a backpack.
Russia’s continued blockade of the Black Sea will continue to starve Africans and Asians of Ukraine’s grain that expands a crisis into a daily terror that will make it all but impossible to deal with common global threats such as climate change. A Russian win ensures there will only be cheap exported oil deep into the end of this century, with a 3 degree global temperature rise.
A Russian victory is likely if we do nothing. If we don’t train their troops, give them armaments, give them food, give their citizens homes in our country, then something even darker happens. The Ukraine is broken up and Balkanised into multiple Russian client-states ruled by kleptocrats and thieves seen right throughout Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgizstan and the rest. A Russian victory strengthens the hand of tyrants and regional paramilitaries who see politics as nothing more than opportunities for 1% oligarchs to prop up the 5% managerial brokers who keep them in power funnelling cash their way. Forever.
A Russian victory will see a quick expansion of the Russian Collective Security Treaty right to the door of NATO. The Baltic states would be threatened, as would key trade points of Baltic Finland.
A Russian victory is the death of supported democracy for 44 million people on earth, and a hammer blow for any across the world trying to improve it.
The Russia-Ukraine war is establishing principles for the 21st century.
We have to support the Ukrainians if we want democratic values and global cooperation on climate to survive. That means we have to help them fight to win.
Let’s compare the Greek and Turkish approaches briefly.
Back in the day when the temporary invention of democracy was evolving, Athens had to win wars to survive. The most famous defence of democracy, the funeral oration of Pericles, is about the harmony of risk and freedom. For Greece, Ukraine, and indeed ourselves, both prosperity and sometimes survival depends on sea trade. Ancient Athenians were nourished by grain brought from the north coast of the Black Sea grown in the black earth of what is now Ukraine.
Greece as an EU state represents one way of approaching Russia’s invasion. We could recognise that alongside the Jews, the Greeks are the longest inhabitants of Ukraine. Mariupol was their city for several thousand years until the Russians destroyed it three months ago. The southern region of Kherson where combat continues, bears a Greek name from a Greek city. That famous Greek God Poseidon had his name on the missiles that sank the Russian flagship Moskva.
Or we in New Zealand can go the Turkish route. This is the route of appeasing the tyrant Putin. President Erdogan like President Trump has ground his democratic order into broken pieces. Turkey has ensured that it will be the last to vote on NATO accession for Norway and Finland for maximum brokering price: the vote must be unanimous across all member states.
The Erdogan route is the route that says the Ukrainians are largely at fault, it’s time to give in to Russia, let the trade flow again at all human cost. The price of this cowardly retreat in the face of Russian aggression is a strong alignment of Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Iran, and unity against open democracy from the Himalayas to the Carpathain Mountains.
So let’s set out what may be gained if we support a successful repudiation of Russia from Ukraine.
It is a victory over tyrants. A century ago we learnt what happened when in Spain the tyrants won, and fascism grew. Imagine if the Spanish Republicans had won and more of Europe united against Hitler’s Germany. Tens of millions of lives saved and more peaceful world.
It is a victory over oil. Europe can if Russia is defeated continue its world-leading accelerated conversion away from transport petroleum and meets its ambitious goals. Another petro-state finds its highest-use customer just doesn’t need it any more.
It is a victory over lies. The Russian lies that infected the United States 2016 election for which many dozens of people have been indicted and jailed, becomes a highwater mark of deception that retreats. Ukrainian society is opened to less filtered internet news, more open contests of opinion and allegiance are enabled.
It is a victory for hundreds of thousands of families. The millions of refugee children and couples who have fled to Poland and elsewhere will be able to return and re-build their shattered homes and lives. Few will return to a Russian-dominated suzerainty.
That is what is at stake if we do not support Ukraine now.