Please, America — for our sake and for yours, don’t let your allies down


Last week, the U.S. Senate voted in solidarity with Ukraine and other democracies threatened by authoritarian tyranny. Eighty years after the U.S. and Allied armies liberated Nazi-occupied Europe in World War II, history is again challenging freedom-loving nations.

What will history write of this new conflict between democracies and authoritarians? Will history be as kind this time to the Allies, whose World War II victory over the Nazis ushered in both the greatest period of peace and progress Europe had ever seen and unbridled prosperity for America?

The pages of 21st century history are being written now in Ukraine. It is up to the leaders of the free world to ensure that freedom, peace and prosperity are once again victorious.

Over the last 80 years, the U.S. and its allies and partners have honored the sacrifice of their gallant dead by keeping the bright light of democracy shining. To this day, people around the world look to the U.S. as the bearer of the beacon of democracy. Today, Ukraine hoists democracy’s torch and reflects on the words of John Adams: “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our maker.”

The U.S. Senate has upheld the wishes of America’s Founders to support the rights of all freedom seeking peoples.

As the third year begins of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine, dark forces are again challenging the freedoms of those who live in democratic societies. While battles happening far from U.S. shores may seem to many an aggrandized threat, just look to history.

On the cusp of war in 1938, Britain and France negotiated a deal with Nazi and fascist regimes to stop Hitler from waging war. Far from pacifying Hitler, they gave him room to plunge the world into the greatest war the world had ever seen. The far shores of Europe became the burial ground for hundreds of thousands of American soldiers as a consequence.

The threat today is no less real than it was in 1938. Russia under Putin has signaled its desire to challenge the West — first with its invasion of Georgia in 2008, then with its annexation of Crimea in 2014, and now with its all-out war against Ukraine from 2022 to the present. And the parallels to World War II are many. As the Nazis united dictatorships, today’s Russian Federation has made common cause with Iran and North Korea, which are providing it drones and missiles.

As in the late 1930s, what happens in Ukraine will not be limited to Europe but will have lasting effects for the U.S. and its allies and partners around the world. We have already witnessed Iran’s horrific attacks on Israel through its proxy, Hamas. While some may want to separate the two attacks because they are in different military theaters, they are attacks by a common enemy directed at U.S. national interests. If the U.S. blinks in Ukraine, our common enemies will not hesitate to further test democracy’s resolve.

We do not know how long this war will last, or when or how it will end. But we do know that this is not a choice between war and peace, for if the aggressor wins, there will be no peace. If Russia defeats Ukraine, it will not just be a victory for the Russian dictatorship, but the first victory for its coalition of dictators. And what do victors do with victory? They keep going.

When Hitler dismembered Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland in 1939, the eventual result was a world war. A Russian occupation of Ukraine yielded by the U.S. and the West would make the world less secure for Israel, the Baltic States and U.S. forces overseas.

However, this doesn’t have to be the history of the 21st century. After World War II, the U.S. rebuilt Europe with the Marshall Plan. This injection of U.S. capital into Europe created markets for U.S. goods and allies with whom the U.S. could share the burden of protecting democracy.

The prosperity and goodwill created through the Marshall Plan is a blueprint for the future of Ukraine that will create opportunities for American businesses. This includes the U.S. defense sector, which is already benefitting from U.S. expenditures on military goods deployed to Ukraine, and create a Ukrainian army ready to deter the West’s enemies from further attacks.

With U.S. support, Ukraine can not only win this war, but also demonstrate to America’s adversaries that the U.S. and its allies around the world will not blink in the face of aggression. They will not allow the flame of freedom lit by America’s founders to be extinguished. They will not allow the sacrifices of the last two years to be in vain. They will not allow those responsible for this destruction to go unpunished.

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“We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars,” Ronald Reagan said in 1984. “It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.”

Today, some really want America to forget this, to back down in the face of tyranny. Ukraine believes in the strength of the U.S. and its Founding Fathers to ensure the flame of freedom casts light not only over America’s shores, but upon its allies around the world. Please, America, don’t let us down.

Andriy Yermak is chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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