Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine — and the world — will stop only through unity

War has defined world order throughout history. It is the battleground of good versus evil. Indeed, war is not just the meeting of military forces; it is the meeting of values, principles and the basic tenets of human decency and the rule of law. The struggle between these forces is unrelenting, and I must state unequivocally that the stress on these forces is greater now than they have been in the memory of our generation. The outcome could be the catalyst for a new chapter in history of a new world order.

The war between Ukraine and Russia, especially now that it has escalated, is not playing out only on our televisions; it will affect the daily lives of every person around the globe.

Ukraine has had a front-row seat to this war since restoration of its independence from Russia in 1991. Through assaults via cyberwarfare on our military, banks and infrastructure; unrelenting fake news via social media that divides us a nation; blatant disregard for international law and Ukraine’s territorial integrity through the illegal taking of Crimea, the invasion of the Donbas and the official recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states; and the psychological bullying from a military threat on our borders that has now become real with death and destruction ripping our country apart — this war has been constant and unrelenting.

What happened Thursday with the invasion of Ukraine is not a new war but the escalation of the war that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is responsible for. Ukraine has become the proxy fight between the East and the West in Putin’s egotistical attempt to set a new world order in which Russia is the conductor. Make no mistake: This war has been and will continue to be a war of global consequences.

As we all sit in our homes and see the reports on TV about conflicts around the world, we often do not really pay attention — not because we condone war, but because we fail to see how such conflict affects our daily lives as we focus on providing for our families’ needs. But the war between Ukraine and Russia, especially now that it has escalated, is not playing out only on our televisions; it will affect the daily lives of every person around the globe.

This war will disrupt supply chains, the global economy, stock markets, Covid recovery, travel. Even more than that, it will send a message to the rest of the world about how other countries can act. If you allow a bully to control the sandbox, then he will look to grow his sandbox. If you allow an authoritarian brute who thrives on creating global conflict to go unchecked, he will simply become a bigger brute searching for more food than that provided by Ukraine. This is why the world should care.

Putin has never respected democracy and the rule of law. Putin has never respected human dignity or rights. Putin’s goal is simple — to restore the former Soviet Union at whatever cost. And his declaration of a relationship with China that knows “no limits” should also be a wake-up call to all the world.

This is a relationship of two authoritarian regimes controlled by two men whose only interest seems to be their personal legacies, not the welfare of their citizens — two people who condone genocide, imperialism, world instability and economic blackmail. If Putin goes unchecked, there is little doubt that other bad actors, including China and Iran, will test the limits of the league of democratic nations. This is not a war solely about NATO or E.U. integration for Ukraine — it is a war about the evil of authoritarianism and the possibility of a new world order, one based not on good but on evil.

Faced with these realities, what can be done to bring an end to this daily assault on our sovereignty and democracy? What should be done to ensure the stability of the world? First, we must rid the world of authoritarianism. Our fight is not a fight against Russia and the Russian people; it is a fight against Putin and an authoritarian system of government that keeps the Russian people in economic and social bondage.

Second, we must be strong — strong economically, strong militarily and strong through togetherness.

Through a strong economy, Ukraine will be able to stand on its own two feet without international loans and the possibility of economic blackmail from countries like China and Russia. When all Ukrainians have a good quality of life from a strong economy, we will be strong against any force, domestic or foreign. This is our first line of defense.

Through a strong military, we can stop the physical aggression from external forces. As of today, our military is fighting with the heart and soul of a gladiator, and for that I am proud. But Ukraine must immediately invest in the best equipment, in the best cybersecurity, in the best intelligence and, most important, in the troops and their families who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We owe a lot to our allies for helping build a strong military, which is our second line of defense.

Our ultimate line of defense is a strong togetherness, one where we are inclusive and not divided. Where those in government put the people ahead of their own self-interest. Where they talk about inclusion and not division. Where they show our adversaries that no matter our political, social and economic differences, we can come together in times of crisis and show that Ukraine’s territorial integrity is absolute and not negotiable.

This togetherness is not just about Ukraine. It is about the world, for the Bible tells us that a house divided will fall, and history is filled with examples of that truth. Let us not let Putin use global division to make Ukraine the next example, with democracy falling to authoritarianism. Only together can the league of democratic nations bring not just an end to this war in Ukraine, but also an end to the cancer of Putin and authoritarianism in the world.

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