Charles Blow | What Is Our Moral Obligation in Ukraine? – The New York Times

“In June of 1998, Clinton declared a national emergency under the pretense that the governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia, with respect to Kosovo, were threatening to “destabilize countries of the region and to disrupt progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina in implementing the Dayton peace agreement, and therefore constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

NATO intervened, ended the war and brought an end to most of the immediate suffering.

This poses the question: When does America have a moral obligation to intervene — particularly for humanitarian reasons — in conflict? And which factors contribute to the choices we make?

America and NATO have a clear geopolitical interest in Ukraine: President Vladimir Putin of Russia cannot be allowed to get away with such unprovoked, naked aggression. What kind of precedent would that set? And who’s to say that he would stop there?

But when the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke via video to Congress on Wednesday, part of the appeal he was making was a moral one, an appeal to the American belief in and commitment to the very idea of democracy.

He said:

Peace in your country does not depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong does not mean big. Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world. For human rights, for freedom, for the right to live decently and to die when your time comes, not when it is wanted by someone else, by your neighbor. Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine, we are fighting for the values of Europe and the world, sacrificing our lives in the name of the future.

The question is how far is America compelled to go. President Biden signed off on $13.6 billion in aid on Tuesday and announced on Wednesday that $800 million in military assistance would be sent to Ukraine as part of that funding. These are not trivial amounts. Furthermore, America and its allies have imposed stiff economic sanctions on Russia. The sanctions could contribute to inflation, which means that Americans may pay even more than what the administration is pledging in direct assistance.

I say that the United States must supply military aid and should supply humanitarian aid. But I also say that we must be more consistent in determining who deserves outpourings of our humanitarian impulses.

Human suffering is human suffering. It has been a constant in the story of mankind. Sometimes it overlaps with our national interests, and sometimes it does not. But our sense of morality must remain constant, and in it we must find a place for equity.”  -38-

David Lindsay: I think NATO should treat Ukraine like a member, and go to war to save the country. Here are some comments I endorse:

Kansas City11h ago

Our moral obligation to Ukraine is absolute. Together with the UK we GUARANTEED Ukraine’s safety, security, and territorial integrity when we persuaded it to give up the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the former Soviet Union. We have entirely reneged on that commitment (as we have on commitments to other people and countries in danger, like Iraqis and Afghans who helped U.S. troops while we were involved there) and America’s word has become worthless. Just another indicator of America’s decline and fall.

6 Replies236 Recommended

Gary V
Oakland, CA11h ago

Charles Blow, in my view of the world it is very clear. When a free peoples are attacked by a neighbor, whether internal as in Rwanda, Sudan or external like in Bosnia, Kosovo and now in Ukraine ( I leave out a lot of other conflicts) and possibly in the future Taiwan, the leaders of the free world without slicing and dicing “strategic interests” or “they are not a NATO country” should intervene. What is the purpose of life if we cannot help people who want freedom from oppression, dictatorship and autocracy? will we, as individuals do our best to stop a neighbor from killing his family? if yes, what is the difference in nation states from preventing this in a nationwide basis. We cannot hide from our responsibility.

2 Replies170 Recommended

We made many promises to Ukraine. Foremost; that we would protect them if they got rid of their nuclear arsenal. We have a clear moral obligation in Ukraine.

2 Replies159 Recommended

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