The Lecture That Changed My Mind on Ukraine

When I asked a friend his thoughts on Ukraine, he used the words “fascist,” “manipulative,” and “Russian.” To him, Ukraine was a part of Russia, nothing more. I found myself agreeing. When I saw how much money the Biden administration was spending on Ukraine and thought of the tax burden this would impose on the American people, I did not consider the suffering of the Ukrainian people at the hands of a totalitarian regime. I did not think about the thousands of people dying because of Russia. My thoughts towards Ukraine were, “why should I care?” and “why is the United States involved?” I was being “reactive” rather than “proactive” in trying to expand my understanding of the Ukraine-Russia war. 

I carried these assumptions with me when I attended Ilya Timtchenko’s lecture, hosted by the Center for Faith and Inquiry, entitled “The Role of Ukraine in Transatlantic Security.” However, as soon as he began speaking, I realized that his account of the war was very real and weighty. Timtchenko calls Ukraine “home” and had previously worked for several years as an editor for the Kyiv Post. Based on his intimate knowledge of the war and long personal background with the country, Timtchenko considered the situation in Ukraine “the greatest humanitarian crisis of our age.” 

He earnestly spoke about the issues that have plagued Ukrainians ever since Russia invaded in February 2022. He told the story of a woman named Natasha, who had gone through the Russian “filtration process” used by soldiers to identify traitors. His account of her sufferings at the hand of these soldiers sparked something within me. I started to feel anger as he described Natasha being stripped naked and forced to watch as they sorted through and stole her family’s belongings. Timtchenko said that “Natasha and her family were the lucky ones.” Russian soldiers are detaining, torturing, deporting, and even executing Ukrainian citizens. 

As Timtchenko continued his lecture, he described how Russia has notoriously used “psychological warfare” and “misinformation” to manipulate the West into believing Ukraine is a part of Russia, while also at the same time actively working towards undermining Western democracy. I started to piece everything together, and at this point in the lecture, I recognized the evil of Putin’s regime. I saw Russia’s true colors, and I no longer thought they were justified in invading Ukraine. I felt an awakened sense of urgency for the protection of the Ukrainian people. 

Timtchenko went on to discuss the importance of the United States’ support for Ukraine. According to him, “the United States has a moral and security imperative in helping Ukraine.” If Putin succeeds in attaining Ukraine, “he will stop at nothing with his aggressive imperialism.” If the United States does not intervene, Timtchenko said, “genocide will occur and global insecurity will be the new world order.” 

Timtchenko believes that NATO should back Ukraine as well. The support of NATO and the US is the only chance that Ukraine has to gain independence from Russia. If Ukraine did join NATO, the organization would act as a watchdog and provide the ammunition needed to resist Russian imperialism. Initially, I saw Ukraine as the enemy of American interests and believed our money was being spent on a pointless cause. But I now see that Russia is a potential threat to the West and must be prevented from reaching its goals. 

After the lecture, I read more about how Russia’s potential success over Ukraine presents a threat to the liberal international order. In its actions against Ukraine, Russia threatens to disrupt the relative stability in Eastern Europe. Consequently, it has forced the United States and other actors to consider how this will affect global security in the long run. The crisis in Ukraine, as Timtchenko phrased it, is one of “Transatlantic security.” The threat of Putin’s expansion into Eastern Europe could destabilize the entire region, and thus undermine the liberal peace efforts of the past 50 years.

In my own research, I discovered that Russia has committed numerous war crimes against Ukraine including “thousands of civilian casualties and mounting evidence of torture, sexual violence, and unlawful killings” (Amnesty International). Specifically, Timtchenko discussed Russia’s filtration process of Ukrainian citizens, which forced Ukrainians to call themselves Russian, or else face death, deportation, or torture. 

1 John 4:7-8 is a good verse to consider when evaluating how we think of Ukraine: 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The posture I held prior to this lecture was not one based on love. Rather, it arose from a place of fear and misunderstanding. When I heard Timtchenko discuss the sufferings of the Ukrainian people, I realized my response should be of love and mercy. Especially in the face of so much suffering and injustice.

As a Christian, I find Russia’s crimes against Ukraine unacceptable and repulsive. Christians should have a heart for this humanitarian crisis because we are called to love all people and recognize their God-given value. 

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Analyzing decisions involving war, life, and death requires weighing multiple dimensions beyond personal emotions or a simple right/wrong judgement. Factors such as history, ethnicity, strategy, and tactics must all be considered in the analysis. The best course of action is to prevent war from occurring in the first place, as once a war begins, there are no true winners, only losers and worse losers.