The United States is a very strong country, both economically and militarily, and we should be optimistic about the continuation of our leadership role in world affairs. But we have two strong authoritarian rivals, China and Russia. China is by far the bigger long-run threat, but we also have to take Russia seriously.
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to restore the status of the former USSR which was dissolved in 1991. He is doing this by trying to keep neighboring countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan within the Russian orbit. But Ukraine wants to be free and independent. Already in 2013 Ukrainians were rallying to express support for joining the European Union. It is thus no surprise that Ukrainians are now prepared to fight for their freedom from Russia.
The struggle between the United States and Russia is not one of moral equivalence between strong countries. The U.S. represents and leads the side of freedom and democracy. Russia is a freedom denying autocracy. We and our western allies need to do whatever we reasonably can to deter the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- The West needs to arm the likely fierce Ukrainian resistance if a Russian invasion topples the Kyiv government.
- Eastern European partners such as Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states need significant upgrades in military hardware and western military forces.
- NATO membership for Finland and Sweden should become high priority items.
- Construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline directly from Russia to Germany should be permanently stopped and alternative supplies for Europe urgently developed.
- Strict financial sanctions should be imposed including removing Russian banks from the Swift system and seizing all Russian oligarch assets worldwide.
Conclusion. “The long-term effect of this conflict will hinge on the democratic world’s response. If the U.S. and its allies exact a devastating economic toll on Russia, help Ukraine impose high costs on the invaders, strengthen their military capabilities in Eastern Europe and beyond, and improve the overall cohesion of the democratic community, then this crisis could actually fortify the existing order by showing that efforts to break it will not pay.”