Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Will the free world defend my native Ukraine from authoritarian aggression?

By Yuriy Gorodnichenko

UC Berkeley economist Yuriy Gorodnichenko at an award ceremony at France's Toulouse School of Economics

UC Berkeley economist Yuriy Gorodnichenko at an award ceremony at France's Toulouse School of Economics

As a native of Ukraine, I often struggle to explain to my American friends how events in Ukraine unfold, how my friends and family in Ukraine feel about it, and why what happens in Ukraine is relevant for Americans. But not this time.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, many Americans were in shock and disbelief. President Roosevelt called it the day of infamy. The world plunged even deeper into World War II. Nobody could escape the war. Millions of people perished in the war started by mad dictators.

February 24, 2022 is the day of infamy too: Russia attacked Ukraine, bombed Ukrainian cities, killed innocent Ukrainians on the Ukrainian soil. Deep shock and disbelief.

But the picture can’t be clearer: Russia is the aggressor; Ukraine is the victim. Ukraine has only one threat to Putin: Ukraine can be a free and successful country and thus give hope to Russians to become one day a free, successful country too.

As I said before, this is the war with far reaching consequences for the global order, for the free world, and for the security for each of us no matter where we are.

It is a test for all of us.

Will the United Nations follow the fate of the League of Nations that helplessly observed the world spiraling into World War II?  Or will it rise to the occasion and protect peace?

Will the free world provide help to Ukraine to fight the aggressor? Or will it be like the “phony war” after Nazis and Soviets invaded Poland in 1939?

Will the free world realize that this war will not stop in Ukraine? Or will it be like Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia?

Will the free world understand that by trading with the aggressor they fund war and death? Or will it run business as usual until war comes to its every doorstep?

Will the free world reject spheres of influence and insist on self-determination of nations? Or will it end up with another Yalta agreement with countries condemned to repression and misery?

I don’t know answers to these questions. Poland, Finland, Baltics, Georgia or any other disputed territory or country could the next targets of insane ambitions. Or maybe not. A new arms race could exhaust the “peace dividend” after the end of the Cold War. Or maybe not.

But I know one thing. It’s a choice. And we are making this choice now.