NATO’s chief stated yesterday that the Western military alliance will send a written proposal to Moscow later this week to “try to find a way forward” amid growing tensions over Russia’s troop build-up on Ukraine’s border. He added that there is “still a diplomatic way out” of the growing crisis, but some NATO member countries are already putting forces on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe.
The second-largest nation on the European continent after Russia, Ukraine is roughly the size of Texas. It is surrounded by the Black Sea to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus to the north, Poland to the northwest, and Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova to the west. The territory has been ruled by various powers across its history, including Poland, Lithuania, the Ottoman Empire, and the Tsardom of Russia.
After World War II, the entire country became part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the USSR.
I have never been to Ukraine and don’t know anyone who has. The country is the second poorest in Europe and is only our sixty-seventh largest trading partner. According to the Department of Commerce, US exports to Ukraine support only an estimated five thousand jobs.
Why, then, should the US care what happens there?
I am old enough to remember the Vietnam War; many Americans still do not understand why we defended a small nation on the other side of the world at the cost of more than fifty-eight thousand American lives. The US has put 8,500 troops on alert for possible deployment to Europe amid this crisis; what if one of them was your child or grandchild?
Why Ukraine matters to the US
At a press conference early this month, President Joe Biden stated that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “the most consequential thing that’s happened in the world, in terms of war and peace, since World War II.” Analysts list these reasons why the US should be concerned:
One: An invasion could affect the global order.
If Russia is allowed to invade, occupy, and annex its neighbor, “that’s an inherently very unstable international system, which will affect America’s security and its prosperity,” according to one geopolitical expert. Gas prices could spike and global commerce could be disrupted in significant ways.
Two: An invasion could spark a wider war.
One foreign policy expert warns, “If the Russians succeed in reestablishing a sphere of influence or of dominating Ukraine, they won’t stop there. They will continue.” He believes Poland, Romania, and Slovakia could be next, all of which are NATO allies the US is sworn to defend. A successful invasion could also embolden Russia to be more aggressive in cyberattacks, election meddling, and influence campaigns designed to undermine Western democracies.
Three: Western credibility is on the line.
The US has spent billions of dollars to help Ukraine build up its military defenses. NATO has warned that a Russian invasion would lead to devastating economic sanctions and additional shipments of weapons to Ukraine and other eastern European countries. If Russia successfully invades Ukraine, China and other adversaries will likely believe that the West is unwilling to defend its interests.
Four: Western security could be threatened.
One of Vladimir Putin’s demands is that all nuclear weapons be removed from Europe, claiming that they constitute an offensive threat against his nation. If the US refuses, Russian officials indicate that he could counter by placing nuclear weapons in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, within easy, short reach of American cities. A New York Times headline asks if this is a “Cuban Missile Crisis Redux?“
Why Ukraine matters to Christians
We noted yesterday that 78 percent of Ukrainian adults, some thirty-five million people, are Orthodox Christians. Followers of Jesus everywhere should obviously be concerned about and praying for our sisters and brothers in this endangered country.
Christianity Today quotes the leader of one Ukrainian evangelical group: “Prayer is our spiritual weapon. God can undo what the politicians are planning.” Let’s make their “weapon” ours as well (cf. Ephesians 6:12).
In addition, Christians are called to care for hurting people anywhere and everywhere in the world. Unlike any other world religion, we worship a God who literally entered the human race and thus faced and felt every temptation, pain, and challenge we face (Hebrews 4:15).
He sent his followers to “heal every disease and every affliction” they encountered as they advanced his kingdom (Matthew 10:1). He then commissioned them to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19); nations translates ethnos, literally “people groups.” As a result, Christianity is the most global religion in human history. And it grows on the strength of its compassion for hurting people, remembering that what we do for those in need, we do for Jesus himself (Matthew 25:40).
What is true in Ukraine is true wherever you live today. Any problem or pain that is relevant to our Lord is relevant to his followers. Anyone he loves is someone we should love. And Jesus loves each of us as if there were only one of us (St. Augustine) and is praying for each of us right now with compassion and solidarity (cf. Romans 8:34).
“God’s solution for the ills of society”
Recent surveys show that millennials are “leading the shift away from organized religion” as they seek truth that seems more relevant to their personal lives and challenges. At the same time, studies demonstrate that young people value giving back to their communities in practical and relevant ways.
As a result, every problem Christians meet through intercession and personal engagement is an opportunity to show others the relevance of Jesus’ love and grace to our broken world.
Max Lucado writes: “When crowds of people came to Christ for healing, ‘One by one he placed his hands on them and healed them’ (Luke 4:40). Jesus could have proclaimed a cloud of healing blessings to fall upon the crowd. But he is not a one-size-fits-all Savior. He placed his hands on each one, individually, personally. Perceiving unique needs, he issued unique blessings.”
As a result, according to Lucado, “God’s solution for the ills of society is a quorum of unselfish, life-giving, God-loving folks who flow through the neighborhoods and businesses like cleansing agents, bringing in the good and flushing out the bad. They hail from all corners of the globe, reflect all hues of skin. Liberal, conservative, rural, metropolitan, young, old. Yet they are bound together by this amazing discovery: happiness is found by giving it away.”
How much happiness will you find today?