Mr. Putin’s Unprovoked, Unjust War on Ukraine

Alan Kennedy J.D. ’09, Ph.D., is a lecturer of public policy and a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.

The views expressed are his own and not endorsed by the Department of Defense.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military attacks on Ukraine on Feb. 24 will be remembered as the beginning of an unprovoked, unjustified war. President Joe Biden rightly condemned the “premeditated war” and “catastrophic loss of life and human suffering” that this war will bring. President Biden had wisely warned the world that Mr. Putin would use false flags and other tools of deception to justify sending soldiers to Ukraine. From there, Mr. Putin launched direct attacks.

The world’s thoughts and prayers are with the Ukrainian people, who will suffer most from the war.

The New York Times foreign correspondent Valerie Hopkins ’09 has been courageously reporting on Mr. Putin’s military aggressions from the front. On Feb. 19, Ms. Hopkins reported her driver saying, “Be calm,” as mortar shells exploded around the journalist. Within the last 24 hours, Ms. Hopkins has covered Russian artillery attacks across Ukraine, including at airports and ports. Ms. Hopkins’ reporting illustrates that Mr. Putin does not care how many civilians starve or die.

In addition to representing William & Mary well under the harshest of conditions, Ms. Hopkins is highlighting the unthinkable human costs of the most significant conflict in the region since the Soviet Union’s dissolution and the declaration of Ukrainian independence on Aug. 24, 1991. The Ukrainian people are in the unenviable position of deciding whether to evacuate, if they can, or stay and fight, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now encouraging them to do.

Ms. Hopkins reported that Russian attacks began early on Feb. 24 with shells hitting airports and military bases and soldiers entering Ukraine by land, sea and air. The attacks worsened as Russia sparked a “fierce battle” with Ukrainian soldiers for control of the infamous Chernobyl power plant. By the end of the day, Russia had captured Chernobyl and advancing Russian military forces threatened Kyiv, the nation’s capital. A mother fleeing with her children cried, saying, “I fear for my kids.”

The United States and our allies must move quickly to prevent more deaths in this unjustified war.

Recognizing that President Biden’s first “tranche” of economic sanctions failed to stop Mr. Putin from invading Ukraine, President Biden must take direct aim at the finances of Russian oligarchs who provide the financial backing for Mr. Putin’s autocratic regime. President Biden should also ask the United Nations and NATO to provide direct military support for Ukraine, whose military is outnumbered and outgunned. If Ukraine falls, blame lies at the feet of those who failed to act.

Congress should back crippling sanctions and multilateral military measures to ensure that the Russian regime is held accountable for what President Biden denounced as “flagrant violation of international law.” A day after Mr. Putin recognized multiple regions of Ukraine as independent from the sovereign nation, former President Donald Trump lauded Mr. Putin as “savvy” and his strategy as “genius.” President Biden will face corporate pressure not to follow through with his administration’s plans to impose crippling sanctions on supporting actors within Mr. Putin’s orbit. Pressure to not act will be especially high from those making money from Russian fossil fuels.

The United States and other nations must also act quickly to provide humanitarian assistance.

Working with our allies, the strongest nation in the world can prevent the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Ukraine by rushing immediate aid to the people of Ukraine as the U.S. and other nations provide financial and military assistance to the besieged elected government. Civilians suffer and die in every international conflict, but that does not make civilian deaths inevitable. The sooner that multilateral humanitarian assistance arrives, the sooner that lives will be saved.

Together, the world must send the message that Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an unjustified and unprovoked war on a neighboring nation, and that Mr. Putin will be held accountable for his crimes.


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