Putin’s War: A Brutal Assault on Freedom

Amidst Russia’s outrageous attack on Ukraine, we must assess Putin’s detrimental actions and the consequences they will ultimately bear.


State Emergency Service of Ukraine, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Russia has completely destroyed many of Ukraine’s cities, as seen here. The destruction will only worsen unless we take necessary action to prevent it.

It is impossible to watch the ongoing events in Ukraine and not look on with dismay. From people suffering immensely to cities being reduced to rubble to an autocracy attempting to dismantle a democratic neighbor, this war has spurred Russia, Ukraine, and the world into a frenzy.

However, this is not simply a war between Russia and Ukraine. This is Vladimir Putin’s war, and he will bear the consequences for the damage he inflicts on Ukraine, its people, and his own nation. Putin is not a President, but rather a tyrant living in his own distorted reality. His attack on Ukraine, a sovereign and democratic nation, is nothing less than a heinous crime. Putin has no justification for this war, and has propagated falsehoods to advance his agenda. He has defended his invasion by claiming Russia’s responsibility to protect the Donbas, a region in Eastern Ukraine partially under control of pro-Russian separatists, with the ultimate goal being the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. 

One might question what Putin means by his ridiculous statements. Russia has one of the largest militaries in the world, surpassed by only a few others. How can a country with one of the world’s largest militaries “demilitarize” a country that lacks an established combat force? In addition, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is one of only two Jewish heads of state in the world. Zelensky had relatives who were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, and has been a harsh critic of far-right groups in both Ukraine and across Europe. How could someone of that background and character be considered a Nazi? As a Jew who had many relatives that died during the Holocaust, I am personally disgruntled by Putin’s ghastly, anti-Semitic remarks. 

Even worse, these blatant accusations have hit close to home. A family friend who grew up in Soviet Ukraine fought back tears, saying that she had been called a Neo-Nazi by a Russian customer at her hair salon. My Ukrainian neighbors spoke in disbelief about Putin’s aggression towards their home city around Kyiv, remarking that they had been planning to visit after remaining away for three decades. Now, that seems impossible.

Putin’s stances are merely a coverup for his imperialist intentions. Once a leader in the KGB, Putin feels a distinct nostalgia about the Soviet Union and the former Russian Empire, having made a speech days before his invasion calling Ukraine a Russian “colony” that was created by the communist Bolsheviks. Putin also emphasized that Ukraine was an “inalienable part of our history, culture, and spiritual space,” that should be within Russia’s sphere of influence.

Russia’s abominable attack on Ukraine is not its first. In 2014, following a pro-European uprising which drove a wedge between the two nations, Russian soldiers invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Putin claimed that the people of Crimea, who are mainly Russian speakers, had not been able to express their free will and judgment being a part of Ukraine. Put simply, this was another of Putin’s lies fabricated completely to justify his indefensible attacks.

Eight years later, Russia’s attack is more vile. Russian forces surrounded Ukraine on three sides, launching assaults on all fronts. Intelligence seems to indicate that Putin’s original goal was regime change, as he hoped to overthrow the current government by taking the capital Kyiv, while installing a puppet government that would give Moscow de facto control.

However, Putin’s original goal has seemingly failed. Strong Ukrainian resistance around Kyiv has put Russia on the defensive, pushing them further away from the city. Putin has since changed his strategy in hopes of achieving some form of victory. The Kremlin has now withdrawn forces from Kyiv and Chernihiv in the north and relocated them to the Donbas in hopes of strengthening their offensive in that region. 

The troops that recently withdrew from Kyiv raised hell, turning towns into graveyards on their way out. Most notably, Russian troops murdered at least three hundred unarmed citizens in the suburb of Bucha, many of whom were later found dead on the streets or buried in mass graves. 

People in Kyiv were forced to seek shelter in underground train stations earlier in the invasion to avoid air raids. Now, the city and its nearby suburbs are free of Russia, but not of its destruction. (Kmr.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Putin’s crimes against Ukraine have spread far beyond Bucha. His army’s war crimes against the nation’s cities, infrastructure, and people are repulsive. Russian forces have bombed schools, maternal wards, hospitals, and residential buildings, forcing many civilians to flee. Russia has made it very difficult for these civilians to escape, as its soldiers have bombed humanitarian corridors, resulting in countless deaths and injuries. Putin’s war crimes will only escalate, and we must take note of them to ensure that he is eventually held responsible.

Putin’s sudden change in strategy is not all that surprising. The Donbas has seen the most intense fighting throughout the war, with cities such as Mariupol being decimated by constant shelling, bombardment, and missile attacks. Over 90% of Mariupol’s infrastructure has been attacked, with the city being described as “apocalyptic.” 

On the home front, President Biden’s response to this crisis has been strong. In the midst of a global catastrophe, Biden has remained determined and poised, seeking close partnership with NATO allies and partners to deplete Russia’s economy, resources, and strength. Biden has not backed down from crippling Russia’s economy by imposing massive sanctions on banks, oligarchs, and natural resources.

Most notably, Biden slapped a ban on imports of Russian oil, a massive sanction that has greatly harmed Russia and its economic system. Russia produces 12% of the world’s oil, and has long been a massive supplier to the United States and Europe. Now, NATO and its allies must stop funding Putin’s war machine and end its reliance on Russian gas reserves entirely.

The Bradenburg Gate in Berlin is lit up in blue and yellow to show Germany’s solidarity with Ukraine. (U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Though Americans have already felt the effect of this measure in the form of rising gas prices, these actions are absolutely necessary. Defending freedom will have its costs, but we must be willing to endure temporary struggles in order to facilitate long-term peace and stability. 

The newly introduced sanctions have wrecked Russia’s economy, quickly turning the ruble into rubble. The currency’s value hit its all-time low, plunging many businesses and institutions into massive debt. While many people do not want ordinary Russian citizens to suffer, they must feel the consequences of Putin’s actions to understand how truly destructive he is. 

Contrary to expectations, many brave Russians have taken a stand. Many protestors have come out in the streets of cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg to protest the war, leading to many arrests. People are willing to risk their lives to fight for this cause, with arrests leading to a minimum of fifteen years behind bars. Marina Ovsyannikova, a producer for a state-run television show, rushed onto the camera with a “no war” sign, hoping to bring forth the truth and expose Putin’s terror. Ovsyannikova knew the consequences of her actions, but took a stand regardless. She was extremely brave and has since been hailed for her courage by many in the West. Now, more Russians must act like Ovsyannikova and stand up against Putin’s ambitions rather than backing down.

As I watch the news on a nightly basis, I marvel at the bravery of the Ukrainian people. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been atop this effort, inspiring the world with his remarkable leadership and courage. Rather than hiding in his bunker, Zelensky has stood out on the streets of Kyiv ready to fight for his nation. Zelensky has shown no fear in confronting evil and overcoming this calamity, forever making him a hero in my mind.

Ordinary Ukrainian citizens have been the backbone of this resistance. Many have taken up arms to destroy Russian artillery and repel attacks. They have protested in occupied regions, even with Russian soldiers carrying grenades and shotguns just steps away. 

This resistance alone makes the war unwinnable for Putin. Even though Putin has the necessary forces to eventually capture certain territories, Russian troops stand no chance against Ukrainian resistance. There is no possible way that Putin’s army can occupy much of Ukraine for a prolonged period of time. If the Russians emerge victorious, its soldiers will walk down the streets of cities fearing death at every corner. Russia’s best case is achieving a pyrrhic victory, where triumph comes at such a cost that it is tantamount to defeat.

Many protestors have come out onto the streets across the world in support of Ukraine. This protest took place in front of the White House, and attracted a massive crowd.
(Yohan Marion / Unsplash)

The United States and our NATO allies have attempted to seek solutions to stop this conflict, but have not succeeded thus far. Ukraine has floated the idea a no-fly zone, which would close off the Ukrainian skies while forcing NATO aircraft to shoot down Russian fighter jets. This would result in a massive escalation of the conflict, with the United States and NATO coming into direct combat with Russia. While supporters claim otherwise, a no-fly zone would undoubtedly mean the beginning of World War III. 

It is clear that instituting a no-fly zone is a terribly risky move that could result in catastrophe, making us wise to avoid it at all costs. World War III would likely mean nuclear conflict, which could wipe out a huge amount of the world’s population and alter life as we know it. Putin has even prepared his nuclear arsenal, and has seemed open to the idea of using them if he deems it necessary. 

As Russia’s invasion begins its second phase, we should be prepared for a prolonged conflict. Russia’s military blunders and Ukraine’s staunch resistance have put the opposing nations at a stalemate, with neither army being able to successfully attack the enemy. If Ukraine can continue to hold out and prevent Russia from victory, its chances of success will continue to rise. These next few weeks will be crucial in deciding the future of this conflict, and we must give Ukraine everything they need to continue the fight.

Democracy is not perfect, but it is absolutely preferable to tyranny. In Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked assault on Ukraine, we must do our part to defend democracy and freedom around the world. Ukraine will have a long struggle to retain their autonomy, but in the end, I am confident that liberty and freedom will emerge victorious.

This is Vladimir Putin’s war, and he will bear the consequences for the damage he inflicts on Ukraine, its people, and his own nation. Putin is not a President, but rather a tyrant living in his own distorted reality. His attack on Ukraine, a sovereign and democratic nation, is nothing less than a heinous crime.