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Editorial: It’s been 2 years and world’s on the brink. Time to wake up or fall

Ukrainian cadets attend a ceremony for taking the military oath at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War, in Kyiv, on Sept. 8, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. More than 300 cadets took the oath of enlistment. (Roman Pilipey /AFP via Getty Images)
February 24, 2024 7:11 PM 7 min read
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Two years ago today, our website’s homepage blasted, in all caps, “PUTIN DECLARES WAR ON UKRAINE.”

We all have come a long way since that morning of Feb. 24, 2022. From the initial shock of waking up to the sound of air strikes on our cities, through the sense of immense pride encouraged by the victories of 2022, to the gloomy days of two difficult winters and the failed counteroffensive of 2023.

Some things have remained unchanged. Ukrainians still want to fight till the end. The accumulated exhaustion, loss, and pain haven’t converted into the desire to surrender.

Russia’s goal of exterminating the Ukrainian nation has also gone unchanged. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin continues to say that Ukraine’s existence is a mistake. This leaves Ukrainians with no other choice than to fight for their survival in a war they never wanted.

Let’s get one thing clear. When we write “Russia” we don’t just mean the Kremlin or Putin’s regime. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Russians who support his war. They fight in it, they pay for it, they make weapons for it, and in March they will once again vote for Putin to continue to lead them.

The view of the Russian people as an oppressed nation forced to fight is absurdly incorrect. There is plenty of sincere support for Putin’s policies toward Ukraine.

But there are some things that, two years in, aren’t so certain anymore.

The most important of them is this: How serious the West is in its support of Ukraine.

After 2 years of Russia’s full-scale war, Ukraine keeps fighting
Exactly two years ago, on Feb. 24, 2022, Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the largest military attack in Europe since World War II. This day in 2022 also marked a turning point in a decade of ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine that started with the illegal annexation of

Since February 2022, Ukraine’s Western partners have held back on delivering certain types of military assistance to Ukraine, apparently out of fear of Russian escalation. They would then relent and announce they would provide the weapons. Those delays are measured in the lives of Ukrainians gone forever.

Reluctance turned into obstinance in 2023 as aid for Ukraine became politically weaponized in Europe and North America — where critically needed aid for Kyiv to the tune of $61 billion is still tied up in the U.S. Congress.

Germany refuses to send Ukraine its long-range Taurus missiles on grounds that remain elusive to those of us paying attention.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers are literally running out of ammunition on the battlefield. The recent loss of one of Ukraine’s major strongholds in Donetsk Oblast, Avdiivka, is highly likely the result of Ukrainian forces’ inability to achieve parity with Russian troops in ammunition.

All of this leads to the painful question, but one we must ask: Could the West let Ukraine fall – if not on purpose, but due to sheer neglect and breakdown of their resolve – and face the consequences of the whole world order collapsing?

There is no question of the Western allies' capabilities. Their military and economic resources dwarf Russia’s. If they got behind Ukraine 100%, truly doing all they could, the war could have been over by now.

The West needs to snap out of the myth of “Russia can’t be defeated,” and stop seeing Russia as a giant whose fall would be too dangerous for everyone. Russia has proven time and time again that it is already a danger to everyone.

All these arguments may sound familiar, and indeed they aren’t new – we all have heard them, or said them, many times in the past two years. What’s changed is that we can’t afford to not hear them anymore.

Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armoured vehicle in Novostepanivka, Kharkiv Oblast, on Sept. 19, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images) 

Two years ago, we saw the abyss. Today, we are standing on its edge. Make no mistake, Ukraine isn’t standing there alone. Yes, it might be the closest one to the edge, but its fall will indubitably have a chain effect that will drag everyone else down with it.

There is still a way to stop it, but it requires brisk, decisive actions from Ukraine’s friends around the world. The West has already helped Ukraine a lot, but instead of dwelling on past achievements, Ukraine’s allies need to face the reality that they were only half-measures, and now is the time to rectify it.

  • The U.S. Congress must finally bring the $61-billion Ukraine aid for a vote, even if one presidential candidate opposes it.
  • The West needs to provide all the game-changing weapons that Ukraine needs – particularly more long-range missiles, jets, and advanced air defense. There isn’t a minute to lose. The West's inability – or unwillingness – to provide these key systems in time is what has led us to this point, where cities like Avdiivka begin to fall because basic shells are running out.
  • NATO allies must provide a clear pathway to Ukraine's accession to the alliance.
  • The West must come to an agreement on allocating frozen Russian assets to Ukraine. Europe and the U.S. can tap the immobilized assets to help Ukraine. It is clear that it is a question of lack of political will.
  • The West has imposed a host of sanctions against Russia, but they have largely failed to make a difference. Russia’s economy still has plenty of resources to wage an indefinite war against Ukraine. It needs to expand and strengthen the enforcement of sanctions.
  • In a recent interview with the Kyiv Independent, Josep Borrell said that the EU sanctions are not extraterritorial and can't be applied to third countries not members of the union. That should be changed. Existing rules and practices, established in the time of peace, can’t be used as justification for inaction. A rule that is hindering peace and enabling Russia must be changed. European companies should be banned from operating in Russia.
  • Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and isolated. All trade with the country should be ceased. There must be clear sanctions for the countries who choose to continue trade with Russia, such as a ban on doing business with the two largest economies in the world. The U.S. and the EU, alone, account for over 50% of the world's economy. That kind of economic power can go a long way with enough political will.
Sanctions for show: Russian oil sales to China, India single main driver of Ukraine invasion
As Western sanctions designed to cripple Russian energy exports barely slow them down, the Kremlin continues to make enough money to keep its war against Ukraine going indefinitely, just by selling oil to China and India. After pivoting away from Europe, Moscow found enthusiastic buyers in Beijing…

The U.S. and the EU have enough weapons to win this war, and then some. Providing these weapons will save lives, end the war, boost the West's economic output due to an increase in production, and what is crucial for many will make sure that NATO member states won't see their people die on the battlefield next.

And crucially, Western leaders need to lead by example. It often seems that the West lacks resolve and those in power are scared to do the right thing when it requires them to exit their decades-built comfort zone.

"As long as it takes" doesn't mean anything when the support provided is only helping Ukraine hang on by a thread – and if it doesn’t change, even hanging by a thread isn’t guaranteed. Western leaders need to set the record straight – Ukraine must win, Russia must lose. It’s possible. This goal needs to have a clear plan and a timeline; “as long as it takes” is neither.

In its turn, the Ukrainian leadership must step up its game, both in terms of governing and communication. Optimism can lift spirits, but not when it sharply contrasts with reality. Ukrainians can handle the tough truth about the war. Someone must take responsibility to clearly communicate the country’s plan for mobilization, ending the mess and uncertainty.

More importantly, Ukrainian leadership needs to steer away from playing politics and looking for opponents inside the country. Things like pressure on business and attacks on journalists play into the West’s fears that Ukraine is becoming more authoritarian. The messy firing of Valery Zaluzhnyi as commander-in-chief didn’t give the country any points, either.

All these steps can turn the course of events in favor of Ukraine and the free world. The time of statements and piecemeal support is gone. Helping Ukraine survive isn’t helping anymore. Either step it up and make Ukraine win, or let it lose – and prepare to fight on your soil.

How has Crimea changed after 10 years of Russian occupation?
Editor’s Note: The names of Crimea’s former and current residents cited in this article were changed to protect their identity amid security concerns. When Ukrainians talk about Crimea, they often talk about memories. For many, this peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea was a place where they spent
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