A snapshot of the devastation in the Ukrainian town of Lysychansk, where rebels and government troops fought this summer.

The Crimean crisis, the Russian Federation’s imperialistic intervention, and the subsequent war in eastern Ukraine have claimed thousands of lives. This conflict isn’t, as Russian disinformation services maintain, a domestic matter between an oppressed Russian diaspora and the Ukrainian government Neo-Nazi oppressor; it is a geopolitical game of chicken with Putin attempting to (with success so far) steal Crimean land and oil under a “great lie” justification that would make Goebbels proud. His attempt to create a buffer zone of subservient countries between Russia and NATO is a painfully transparent rehash to the days of the Cold War. Putin, riding surging nationalism at home, is unfazed at the current sanctions levied by the West and the international community. While Ukrainians die fighting a de facto invasion for the temerity of wishing closer relations with the West and an end to systemic governmental corruption perpetuated by Putin’s stooges, the West stands still, content to make threats backed with nothing more than words and ineffectual sanctions. It is time that the West backs its words with decisive action: military assistance for the weakened Ukrainian army, which lacks the resources to face a superior Russian enemy.

The reluctance of the West to engage in any form of foreign interventionism is understood, after the twin debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan. However this reluctance is a weakness that will be exploited by the enemies of the West, from Putin’s regime to Tehran and Pyongyang. International order is based on the threat of repercussions to dis-incentivize geopolitical thuggery and invasion. Through inaction, the West is setting a dangerous precedent.

Russia has a long history of oppressing its neighbors, and the West has an equally long history of doing nothing. When the pro-West protesters attempted to leave the Communist sphere of influence in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the West did nothing, too afraid to poke the Soviet bear, to take risks on behalf of a people they didn’t know and felt they owed nothing to. And so thousands of unarmed Hungarians, some even ineffectually throwing Molotov cocktails under the treads of Russian tanks in desperate attempts of resistance, were massacred.

Putin’s involvement in Ukraine is simply a repeat of this, an attempt to exert control over a sovereign state through violence. Appeasement in 1956 ensured the integrity of the Soviet empire for decades, and appeasement today ensures the creation of a new Russian empire, built on the blood of Ukrainians betrayed by the inaction of their Western “friends”. The United States and the West not only have a vested interest in the pre-crisis balance of power, but a moral obligation to aid the forces of democracy over those of naked aggression and fascism.

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  1. While Putin’s actions in Ukraine have no doubt been reprehensible, is the solution really to back Western imperialists over Russian ones? Hungarians died not because the US led West did not want to stand up for democracy, but because the US does not care for democracy. Let’s not forget that around the same time the US left Hungary to rot, they also overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected government and installed an oppressive military dictatorship in its place, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands. Western intervention may be the only option here, but let’s not portray this as some sort of noble conflict between good (“the forces of democracy”) and evil (“those of naked aggression and fascism”). Instead of invoking the White Man’s burden, leaders should try to create a multilateral framework for preventing imperialism of all kinds. Sadly, the possibility of creating international safeguards against imperialism is remote, because the king of all imperialists, the United States, still holds all the power.

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