A Call for a Stronger Response to Russian Aggression in Ukraine

By: Hero Aiken

War is evil. The consequences of war are unequivocally atrocious and
unimaginably far-reaching. Monuments are destroyed, families are torn apart,
precious human lives are lost. No one escapes war unscathed. Amnesty
International does not support war. I, like many others, am fundamentally a pacifist,
and abhor war and armed conflict in all cases. Amnesty International does, however,
support “freedom from mental and physical violence” as well as “freedom of
conscience and expression” (Candlelight U of T). My agreement with this second
tenet compels me to present my argument for the armed intervention of NATO in the
Russian invasion of Ukraine, because I feel that the war in Ukraine will not end until
Putin is forced to retreat from Ukrainian land. To this end, I will dispel a common
justification for the nonparticipation of NATO troops in the conflict.

I am against the development and continuation of the war in Ukraine. That
said, because Putin’s aggression and greed are what caused the invasion to begin, it
is impossible to achieve this aim without forcing his retreat from Ukraine’s sovereign
territory. The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine is an all-too familiar scene. In an
unfortunate turn of events, the only way to stop the war in Ukraine is to briefly
escalate tensions by forcibly expelling Russian troops from Ukrainian territory to
restore peace in Europe and around the world. This is not Putin’s first foray into
Ukrainian sovereign territory. In 2014, he annexed and occupied the Ukrainian region
of Crimea. At the time, sanctions were launched by the United States, the European
Union, and other international organisations against individuals, businesses and
officials from Russia. Despite this, Russia maintained control of this Ukrainian region.
It is clear from this example that sanctions, while admirable and useful, are
insufficient to deter Vladimir Putin’s aggression towards Ukraine.

When Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on February 24th 2022,
they renewed a brazen attack on the sovereignty of that country, as well as the
safety and human rights of its citizens. The European and African unions, individual
countries, NATO, as well as the United Nations have all condemned the Russian
Federation’s illegal attack on Ukraine in the strictest terms. The Canadian
Government called on the Kremlin to suspend “hostile and provocative actions”,
terming the attack “egregious” and an example of “unwarranted aggression” (Prime
Minister of Canada). There has likewise been an enormous and quasi-unanimous
push towards implementing harsh sanctions on the Kremlin and the oligarchs whose
interests it is said to privilege. These include penalties in the areas of aviation, trade,
energy, private wealth, shipping, media and technology (Reuters). This amounts to
an escalation of the tactics employed by the West following the 2014 attack on
Ukraine, but it is clear that sanctions alone have not been enough to stem the
violence which has been constant since the initial incursion.

When Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on February 24th 2022,
they renewed a brazen attack on the sovereignty of that country, as well as the
safety and human rights of its citizens. The European and African unions, individual
countries, NATO, as well as the United Nations have all condemned the Russian
Federation’s illegal attack on Ukraine in the strictest terms. The Canadian
Government called on the Kremlin to suspend “hostile and provocative actions”,
terming the attack “egregious” and an example of “unwarranted aggression” (Prime
Minister of Canada). There has likewise been an enormous and quasi-unanimous
push towards implementing harsh sanctions on the Kremlin and the oligarchs whose
interests it is said to privilege. These include penalties in the areas of aviation, trade,
energy, private wealth, shipping, media and technology (Reuters). This amounts to
an escalation of the tactics employed by the West following the 2014 attack on
Ukraine, but it is clear that sanctions alone have not been enough to stem the
violence which has been constant since the initial incursion.

Western leaders have implicitly stated that NATO troops will not be sent into
Ukraine to oppose Russian forces out of concern for the safety of their countries, and
in order to avoid an escalation to the violence. Joe Biden opposed the presence of
American troops in Ukraine as that would be “a world war when Americans and
Russia start shooting at one another” (CNN). Unfortunately, Ukrainians don’t have
the luxury of choosing to stay uninvolved for their safety. 81% of Canadians support
the actions which Trudeau and his cabinet have already taken with regard to
Russia’s attack on Ukraine (Global News). So far, this includes assistance for
Ukrainian refugees, economic sanctions levelled at Russia and Russian oligarchs,
and the sending of lethal military equipment to aid Ukraine’s defensive efforts
(Government of Canada). Despite this, only 39% of Canadians support the direct
involvement of Canadian troops in this conflict, something which is predicated on
NATO’s involvement (Global News). Although it cannot be doubted that the above
sanctions are effective and important, they have been proven painfully unsuccessful
at avoiding war in the Ukraine. The Ukrainian people are refused military intervention
even as they suffer at the hands of the Russian invasion. Hundreds of Ukrainian
civilians are dead, including many children. In the face of this tragedy, the potential
danger posed to our Western nations cannot be enough to dismiss sending military
support to Ukraine. If the West refuses to “escalate tensions”, Putin will. And this to
the detriment of innocent Ukrainians.

If Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 has taught us anything, it is that he will
not be placated. If his troops take Kyiv, it will only be a matter of time before he
targets Moldova or Poland, or any number of neighbouring nations. Because of this,
it is not only unfair of NATO and its allies to refuse to send troops out of a concern for
their own sovereignty, it is also illogical. If Putin is allowed to continue his march on
Ukraine, it will become a march on Europe. Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania,
Estonia… These are all NATO powers which border on Russia or its ally of Belarus.
NATO countries will not be spared violence by allowing Russia’s government to
occupy Ukraine. Russia will gain land, resources and momentum, and NATO will still
have to defend its member states when Putin decides he is not satisfied with
Ukraine, as he was not satisfied with Crimea in 2014.

For these two reasons, it is both unjustifiable and illogical for NATO to refrain
from sending troops into Ukraine to repel Russian forces. Doing so is not only
callous, when Ukrainians cannot choose safety through non interference, but also
useless, because it is clear that Putin will continue to threaten NATO and its allies
through his potential revised position as occupier of Ukraine. Therefore, in order to
avoid further war and in both Ukraine and neighbouring countries, it is imperative
that NATO send troops to the defence of Ukrainian sovereignty. It must be made
clear to Putin, and to all other oligarchical and authoritarian regimes, that peace in
Europe and around the world is critical to ensuring “freedom from mental and
physical violence” as well as “freedom of conscience and expression”, and that those
who seek to infringe upon it will not be given the leeway to do so. Though it may
seem oxymoronic, the above exposes the escalation of tensions in Ukraine as the
swiftest course to peace.

References:

  1. Boynton, Sean. “Canadians Support Actions against Russia over Ukraine, but Have
    Economic Concerns: Poll – National.” Global News, Global News, 11 Mar.
    2022, globalnews.ca/news/8674701/ukraine-russia-canada-ipsos-poll/.
  2. CANDLELIGHT, amnesty.sa.utoronto.ca/about/our-chapter-2/.
  3. Canada, Global Affairs. “Government of Canada.” GAC, Government of Canada, 10
    Mar. 2022,
    www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/international_relations-relations_internati
    onales/sanctions/russia-russie.aspx?lang=eng.
  4. “Statement by the Prime Minister on Russia’s Attack on Ukraine.” Prime Minister of
    Canada,
    pm.gc.ca/en/news/statements/2022/02/23/statement-prime-minister-russias-att
    ack-ukraine.
  5. “Tracking Sanctions against Russia.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters,
    graphics.reuters.com/UKRAINE-CRISIS/SANCTIONS/byvrjenzmve/.
  6. Wolf, Zachary B. “Here’s What Biden Has Said about Sending US Troops to
    Ukraine.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Feb. 2022,
    www.cnn.com/2022/02/24/politics/us-troops-ukraine-russia-nato/index.html.

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