Nine months after Russia’s unprovoked invasion, Ukraine is proving that it can resist. The Russian military’s initial goals have been thwarted by Ukrainian bravery and their own shoddy planning and logistical failures. Corruption—an endemic problem that underpins the entire Russian state—has also hampered its effort.
In addition, ordinary Ukrainians appear to have been galvanized by the war into supporting their country’s Euro-Atlantic future. In 2014 and again in 2019, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, voters chose pro-Western candidates—Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky—in the presidential elections, with both winning comfortable majorities. Polls indicate that most of Ukraine’s population outside of Crimea and the contested territories is deeply opposed to Russia, and that many support NATO membership or at least EU integration.
Putin’s history-detailed digressions on Ukraine often prompt bewilderment in the West, but his claim that Russians and Ukrainians (and Belarusians) comprise “one people” with a common history helps explain why Moscow decided to invade. This paradigm has been a staple in elite Russian thought since the early modern era, when Muscovy began the project of bringing disparate East Slavic lands and peoples under its control.
While the United States and its allies have condemned Putin’s war on Ukraine, it is important to remember that Kiev faces a profound moral challenge too. The suffering of the innocents is an affront to our values, and indifference is not an option. To confront it, the international community must bolster Ukraine’s defenses by continuing to provide substantial financial and military aid, while allowing Kyiv to grow its ties with NATO—as an enhanced opportunity partner, not a full member—to develop a modern and robust force capable of deterring future Russian aggression.