Why Opposing Ukraine’s Defense Is Courting Disaster

Tatyana Deryugina
3 min readFeb 14, 2024

Opposition to arming Ukraine seems akin to a thoughtless “Hail Mary”, banking on an unfounded hope that Putin’s aggression will somehow become more benign if we give Ukraine fewer weapons. Let’s delve into why this hope is misguided.

Russia systematically and unapologetically perpetrates war crimes, with documented atrocities in Bucha, Izium, and Mariupol, and beyond. Thousands of Ukrainian children have been abducted. People like Elon Musk may be hoping that Putin would be nicer if only Ukrainians stopped resisting the systematic takeover of their country. Such people have clearly not been paying attention to Russia’s domestic policy and Putin’s iron-fist rule. Critics of Ukraine often bring up corruption, but Ukraine has made great strides since 2012, rising from 144 to 104. By contrast, Russia has gone backwards, and is now ranked 141 out of 180. By many metrics, Ukraine is much freer and much more democratic than Russia. Standing by while Russia expands its corrupt and autocratic influence is illogical and dangerous.

Another attitude among critics is that atrocities are an inevitable facet of existence, implying that addressing them all is futile. Consequently, we should prioritize issues closer to home over standing up to Putin. This mindset, whether implicit or occasionally explicit, seems to come from the belief that the primary consequence of not arming Ukraine would be Russia’s consolidation of power in the region. Putin himself has strategically cultivated the notion that Ukraine is his sole objective.

The Institute for the Study of War has a nice series of articles discussing the high price the world and the US would pay for losing Ukraine ( part 1; part 2). A Russian victory would result in a strengthened and emboldened Russian military presence right up to NATO’s borders. Despite the considerable military potential of the United States and NATO, a victorious Russia would pose a substantial conventional military threat, necessitating a costly deployment of American ground forces and stealth aircraft to Eastern Europe for defense. The risk of wider warfare in Europe would skyrocket, egregious behavior in conflict would be normalized, and there would be a geopolitical shift that favors US adversaries. The costs of allowing Russia to win far outweigh the expenses of aiding Ukraine’s defense.

It is also wishful thinking to assume that Putin will not attack any more countries. A sober assessment of Russia reveals a different narrative. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has gotten more, not less aggressive. There’s no meanigful resistance to Putin’s domestic rule. Putin has framed the war as a battle against the West to rally domestic support. In this narrative, halting at Ukraine’s borders would be illogical. Gaining de facto control over Ukraine would furnish Russia with a broader industrial base and a larger pool of potential soldiers.

Russia’s existing military presence in Moldova and Georgia, despite their objections, serves as a stark reminder of its expansionist ambitions. The response of the international community to Russia’s actions in Ukraine will dictate its future course of action. If Putin prevails in Ukraine, the lesson he will learn is that he can have what he wants if only he holds out long enough. That would be a very dangerous world for us all to find ourselves in.

Originally published at https://ukraineinsights.substack.com.

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