U.S. must stop abandoning allies on the battlefield…and stand up

James Lacefield, Opinion Editor

The conflict in Ukraine has (inevitably) escalated to actual violence over the weekend, with Russian and separatist forces entering Ukraine, a move preceded by intense shelling and missile attacks on locations across Ukraine.

This comes after false Russian claims that they were thinning out their own front line troops and de-escalating military involvement in the region, while President Biden himself and his administration have noted the inevitability of such an attack. Meanwhile, Moscow has openly recognized two separatist-controlled territories, The People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and the Russian military has begun to occupy these territories alongside the separatist forces. In response, Western allies have begun to impose economic and trade sanctions against Russia, especially Germany’s blocking certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to the West, with hopes of bringing a diplomatic end to the tension.

Diplomacy, however, has its limits. Once all diplomatic channels are exhausted, an occurrence generally signaled by the first shots being fired on a battlefield, the only option left is military opposition to aggressive action. The threat of violent opposition on all fronts was the only thing preventing the Cold War from rapidly warming up should diplomatic relations break down; a threat which was reinforced by the presence of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces across the border from Eastern Bloc troops.

The question now is, how far have we really come since the Cold War? Many of our world leaders were also heavily involved in government during the Cold War. Nearly all of the disputes and conflicts we currently face are the result of underlying tensions left over from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even the weapons and tactics used on the front lines today are not all that dissimilar from those that would have been employed in the late 20th century. So, should we not deal with this situation in Ukraine the same way we would have during the Cold War? We have already threatened economic sanctions (see Cuba circa 1962) and pursued diplomacy (see the Nixon administration), yet so far these actions have failed to prevent the outbreak of violence in Ukraine. The only, and most logical next step, is an escalation of military force in the region.

During the Cold War, we did not abandon our allies in Germany or Korea, and today those nations are prosperous and free. In more recent years, we have seen the Trump administration abandon our allied Kurdish fighters and the Biden administration tuck its tail between its legs in Afghanistan; the Middle East has yet more bloodshed and extremist tyranny to show for it. Now, our leaders are waving documents and paperwork in the face of Vladimir Putin, while Ukrainian soldiers are shelled and Russian troops pour over the border in clear defiance of our people-pleasing diplomacy.

We brought an “end” to the Cold War by backing up our diplomatic decisions with military might. Now, our diplomats have no teeth, and our enemies are taking advantage of that at the expense of our global allies. The only thing now capable of putting Russia on the back foot and saving Ukraine from a certain large scale invasion is to back our allies militarily. While there is always a chance for a diplomatic solution to any conflict, and I strongly prefer peaceful diplomacy to bloodshed and war, there are times when diplomacy needs to be backed with the threat of military intervention. NATO, and the United States especially, needs to oppose the Russian threat on all fronts, in the conference room and on the battlefield.