Presenting Ukraine's Geopolitical Case: Rationale for International Support Beyond Emotional Appeals

Presenting Ukraine’s Geopolitical Case: Rationale for International Support Beyond Emotional Appeals

Photo: / wirestock_creators
14 September 2023

Despite strong commitment from Western government agencies and major businesses, there is a noticeable decline in public support of continuing financial support for Ukraine, which significantly affects humanitarian fundraising campaigns aimed at assisting the war victims. Although Ukrainians still die every day, and one cannot be “accustomed” to that, the rest of the world needs more rational arguments to continue to support Ukraine. In this article we provide such arguments.

In the initial hours of the full-scale war, there were dramatic statements on American television, predicting the fall of Kyiv in just three days. But this Russian attack sparked an unprecedented display of unity and bravery among Ukrainians worldwide, garnering empathy and prompting a call for help from the Western world. Witnessing the suffering in places like Bucha and Mariupol, it was clear that assistance was crucial. However, as time has passed people have grown weary of hearing about continuous airstrikes with mass casualties and the repetitive releases of multibillion-dollar aid packages from their governments. There are voices (sometimes supported and/or amplified by Russian propaganda) arguing that this money should be rather spent on internal problems or on humanitarian support elsewhere. For example, millions of people in the Global South suffer from food shortages and military conflicts and need humanitarian aid. 

Thus, why should a representative taxpayer from the US, Canada or a European country support their government helping Ukraine to defeat Russia rather than spend this money on something else? Apart from ending human suffering and preventing more war crimes, there are quite a few rational reasons for that.

First, Ukraine’s victory will increase food security in the world. Ukraine’s favorable climate and fertile soil make it a crucial global partner in providing grain and other agricultural commodities to countries facing food shortages due to geographical limitations, the inability to cultivate crops, or climate change-related challenges like droughts and hurricanes. The significance of Ukraine’s contribution to global food security cannot be understated. During one of the recent attacks on civilian infrastructure, Russia deliberately destroyed 200,000 tons of grain that was meant for export. This act of aggression highlights the alarming risk of world hunger if Russia continues its senseless destruction of global food reserves or gains control over Ukraine’s valuable resources, potentially using them as a leverage.

Just envision the predicament of negotiating with a terrorist every time humanitarian aid in the form of grain is required to save people from hunger in developing countries. Such a scenario could lead to humanitarian crises and prolonged suffering for millions of people worldwide, while causing inflation in developed countries. 

Second, an outcome other than Ukraine’s victory (e.g. a frozen conflict) would have significant adverse implications for global peace and stability, with far-reaching impacts on democracy and security around the world. Thus, Ukraine literally fights for democracy and the world order based on rules rather than force.

Gaining control over (a part of) Ukraine’s territory, its resources, and the Black Sea region would significantly strengthen Russia’s position, which may embolden it to target other neighboring countries in Central and Eastern Europe or Central Asia, preparing them for the possibility of engaging in a prolonged world war against Russia. In such a scenario, the United States and NATO would be left with no choice but to deploy their military personnel to defend against this aggressive expansion. The cost of such a war would be much higher than supporting Ukraine today.

Third, we exist in a highly interconnected and globalized economy. Even minor conflicts in far away regions can impact prices at our local groceries and beyond. When Russia initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the global community experienced severe economic consequences due to disruption of trade flows and heightened security concerns. Numerous multinational companies ceased their operations in both Russia and Ukraine, which led to lasting economic effects not only for these two countries but also for companies’ employees and customers worldwide. Since this war has global effects, everyone should be interested in Ukraine winning sooner rather than later. Therefore, sanctions on Russia should be strengthened and global companies still operating in Russia should exit immediately. It is very strange that with one hand Western companies and governments support Ukraine and with another hand help the aggressor.

Fourth, each one of us feels the impact of climate change. People, companies, and governments take on strong commitments to decrease carbon emissions and adopt new strategies to mitigate rising temperatures and sea levels. Russia’s war in Ukraine, with relentless explosions and the use of “non-green” munition poses a significant threat to all the efforts made so far. The longer the war lasts, the more air, water and soil in Europe are polluted and the longer it would take to restore ecosystems. Some argue that withholding weapons and essential aid from Ukraine could compel Ukrainians to engage in negotiations. However, even if Ukraine no longer receives critical military and financial support, the war would persist, and the fighting would endure. We know this because Ukraine already tried a frozen  conflict: multiple ceasefires were announced since 2014, but these ceasefires were always broken by Russia until it finally launched the full-scale war. A “frozen conflict” would be marked by continued gunfire, landmines, missile detonations, ultimately inflicting lasting negative outcomes on our planet. Moreover, Russia will use this time to replenish its arsenal for the next war. Therefore, by hastening Ukraine’s victory, we can help reduce the risk of further exacerbating climate change and its devastating consequences.

Fifth, we must consider the importance of fighting cross-border corruption.  It is essential that the sanctions imposed on Russian oligarchs and their businesses remain after the war – at least until Russia compensates Ukraine for damages. Moreover, new conditions must be set to limit their ability to engage in illicit practices, such as monopolizing markets and laundering money. Russian assets acquired through cross-border schemes and stored in offshores should be seized to rebuild Ukraine. This approach would not only benefit Ukraine but also alleviate the burden on governments and international organizations which currently support demining and restoration of the war-torn areas.

As a side effect, seizure of Russian assets would lower corruption worldwide since the Russian state (through oligarchs) uses “safe havens”, money laundering and other schemes not only to store its wealth outside of  Russia but also to “buy” foreign politicians and to impact public opinion of other countries. With evidence of Russia meddling into elections of other countries, democracies around the world should protect themselves from this influence. One of the effective instruments for this would be increased transparency of media (including social media) and the financial system.

Reforming the world financial system to eliminate offshores would also help reduce corruption in Ukraine. Since 2014, Ukraine has made considerable improvements in both preventing and punishing corruption (e.g. Prozorro procurement system, Diya application and online portal for electronic public services,  and a system of special anti-corruption agencies show good results). Further reduction of Russian influence in Ukraine (with the help of Ukraine’s allies) would considerably support Ukraine’s anti-corruption effort.

Finally, we must consider the significance of the 1994 Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the Budapest Memorandum). This document assures Ukraine’s security in exchange for relinquishing the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Parties that signed the Memorandum (among them Russia) promised to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Dismissing this document as a mere formality raises questions about the usefulness of nuclear disarmament for other countries. If international agreements and goodwill no longer play a role, then every country would be willing to acquire as many weapons as it can, including nuclear weapons. Besides eliminating the peace dividend, this will make the world a much more dangerous place.

Thus while feeling upset about the news from Ukraine or another large aid package to Ukraine, it is crucial to remember that this is not a regional conflict with limited impact. This is a full-scale war with global impact. Even for people across the ocean, the situation in Ukraine bears significant consequences that should not be ignored or underestimated.  Ukraine’s decisive victory with the help of its allies would allow the world to return more or less “back to normal”, while any other scenario would show the weakness of the democracies and thus would lead to more conflicts (e.g. China attacking Taiwan), less security, and much less prosperity. 

  • Mariya Chukhnova, International Security & Stability Programming and Senior Project Coordination at The Critical Mass


The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations