Editorial: Save Ukraine and free Russia: Countering Putin requires concerted action

Saturday marks the two-year anniversary of Russian despot Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, after Moscow’s military forces took control of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea in 2014. When he launched his “special military operation” in 2022, Putin expected his tanks to roll into Kyiv within days, a proof of concept for his vision of a reconstituted Soviet Union.

As the months dragged on and the offensive failed spectacularly some optimistic observers began predicting Ukraine would win decisively, and perhaps even push into Russia. The truth is somewhere in the middle: Ukrainian forces have fought resolutely against a much larger adversary but are worn down and on their back foot. The Russians have just taken the eastern Ukrainian stronghold of Avdiivka.

It’s easy to fall into the narrative trap, established both by our popular mass media and general conceptions of historical progress, that there is something inherent about the victory of the good side, that a smaller nation invaded by a murderous and imperialistic neighbor will still triumph.

This is not true; there is no guarantee that the right side wins, and to think so is dangerous and counterproductive. And here the right side, Ukraine, certainly cannot prevail without help. The United States and our Western European allies have been providing aid, but it is running low and as by far the biggest player, Washington’s continued assistance is crucial.

President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 68 other senators all agree to send Ukraine $60 billion in a bill which passed the Senate last week. It would absolutely pass in the House of Representatives as well, but Speaker Mike Johnson sent the chamber on vacation instead of acting, because Donald Trump wanted him to.

So advancing on the battlefield and having America frozen are good for Putin, who felt emboldened to finally get rid of Alexei Navalny, the brave man who opposed Putin’s stranglehold of corruption and violence and has now paid the ultimate price. And as much as it’s frightening to think so, there is nothing that says Putin won’t win — in his own war against democracy, in Ukraine, even in Poland and farther afield.

This doesn’t leave us powerless, it simply means that we must take real action to stop him. The arc of history doesn’t bend inexorably in favor of liberty; it must be bent, by continued military and economic support for Ukraine, by sanctions and the fomenting of internal dissent in Russia, by steadfast support for NATO.

Right now, the MAGA GOP is doing what they can to bend it in Putin’s direction, with Johnson and House Republicans refusing to move forward with the aid that is keeping Ukraine’s military going while Trump posts bizarro statements referencing Navalny but not Putin and encourages the latter to attack NATO countries. The rationale here really seems to be a pure expression of domestic electoral politics, without consideration for the broader international implications.

Putin’s denials that he has any interest in a wider war with Poland or Latvia ring close to his obviously false denials of interest in war with Ukraine, and Republicans should have a hard think about what kind of world they want to be in three or four years from now. Is it worth it?