Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently said Russia occupies 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory. The scale of Putin’s bloody land grab is as if the U.S. were deprived of Texas, California, Montana, Arizona, Oklahoma and New Jersey. Russia is like a python, which seizes its prey and waits until it is weak enough so that it can swallow it whole. Procrastination and passivity will play in favor of the invader. That is why it is so important the West stop deluding ourselves that the support we have thus far provided for the Ukrainian army is sufficient.
The latest intelligence reports confirm that the Russians are strengthening their presence in the occupied territories of Kherson and Zaporizhia. They are not only increasing the numbers of their troops but also exploiting moments of Ukrainian fatigue to build fortifications that will prevent an effective counter-offensive. Ukraine is trapped. The normal functioning of the economy is largely impossible today, and Russia is crippling grain and food exports.
This is no longer a local conflict. Around the world, food market deficits, especially those that may occur in Africa and the Middle East, are catalysts of yet another migration crisis. This is exactly what Putin wants. Russia’s actions already have global consequences in the form of Putin-flation. And the further effects are difficult to even estimate.
Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco and countries of the Sahel are among the indirect victims of this war and the resulting food crisis. None of these are oases of peace. Each of them could easily fall into the orbit of stronger Russian influence.
And as for the elephant in the room, China — the largest importer of food from Ukraine — certainly, the war in Ukraine will not deal a blow to its economic position. It may, however, be an incentive to become more active in taking over global assets. The “Chinese Dragon” could seize this opportunity to make a giant leap forward.
The geopolitical passivity of the Western world carries the risk of its marginalization. History teaches that prolonged conflicts bleed both sides, but dictatorships have an advantage over democracies. They are not accountable to their societies and can pay the price of blood, even with opposition from their citizens. We should not forget the lessons of Afghanistan and Vietnam: Both of these tragic clashes proved that a lack of decisiveness and an entanglement in many years of guerrilla warfare ultimately bring only losses. But those failures did not lead to the rapid decay of the global world order for one reason only: There were no candidates for a new hegemon.
Now everything is different. A defeat of Ukraine will have more far-reaching consequences than the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan or the defeat in Vietnam. If Ukraine falls, the foundations on which we have built our plans for the future will also collapse.
The U.S. and Europe may be replaced by China — or China in tandem with Russia. We will find ourselves in a completely new chapter of world history, one that could be written in extremely bloody verses. There are increasing signs that the lack of decisive measures against Russia may be critical for Taiwan. China sees Russia’s relative weakness and, at the same time, it sees how much weaker the West is if it cannot stop a declining empire.
The war in Ukraine puts before us one crucial question: Does the transatlantic free world still want to occupy a position of leadership? Do we still believe in the universality of values such as freedom and the right of national self-determination? Do we have determination to defend them? If not, we have already lost our future. However, if the flame that has enlivened our civilization for centuries is still smoldering, it is high time we rekindled it and did everything in our power to save Ukraine.