I hate war.

Since World War II, every major con­flict the US has got­ten involved in has been an abject fail­ure. We have expend­ed count­less lives, immea­sur­able resources, and much of our cred­i­bil­i­ty abroad for noth­ing. Worse than noth­ing, in most cas­es. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – it’s dif­fi­cult to see that our involve­ment in these wars served any pos­i­tive pur­pose. If it did, it cer­tain­ly wasn’t com­men­su­rate with the toll tak­en on this nation and on the peo­ple who suf­fered in those conflicts.

Recently, a local media pun­dit claimed that the “main­stream media” is beat­ing the drum of war in Ukraine, inti­mat­ing that the US is prepar­ing to active­ly enter the war.

I have not seen any­thing remote­ly hint­ing that America should get involved mil­i­tar­i­ly in this con­flict. And I agree whole­heart­ed­ly that we should not. At least not yet, and hope­ful­ly never.

But what the Biden admin­is­tra­tion is doing – along with the major­i­ty of Western democ­ra­cies – is very smart and so far, prov­ing to be effective.

Economic sanc­tions by NATO coun­tries, the EU, Japan, and oth­ers are already tak­ing a toll on the Russian econ­o­my. The Russian cur­ren­cy, the Ruble, has lost much of its val­ue – near­ly a quar­ter as of Monday alone. The Russian Central Bank has been forced to raise inter­est rates to over 20% in an attempt to con­tain run­away infla­tion. Much of the cen­tral bank’s $643 bil­lion held in for­eign cur­ren­cy reserves are being frozen. Dozens of coun­tries have closed their air­space to Russian planes. Foreign investors are pulling out of Russia.

And yes­ter­day after­noon, even Switzerland – set­ting aside a long­stand­ing neu­tral­i­ty stance – announced it would freeze Russian assets.

Russia has become iso­lat­ed from the world, much as the for­mer Soviet Union was dur­ing the Cold War. That didn’t end well for the for­mer com­mu­nist republics.

Meanwhile, the gov­ern­ment, the mil­i­tary, and the civil­ians of Ukraine are putting up stiff resis­tance to the invad­ing Russian forces. Ukrainians abroad have been return­ing home to join the fight. The resis­tance appears stronger than any­one expect­ed. So much so that Putin has agreed to peace talks. I don’t expect any­thing to come from that – it’s prob­a­bly noth­ing more than a diver­sion­ary tac­tic. But it’s clear that none of this is going the way Putin thought it would.

The odds are, Russia will suc­ceed in top­pling the gov­ern­ment of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But it will do so at a great cost. If we’ve learned any­thing from post-World War II con­flicts, hold­ing on to Ukraine will be a chal­lenge unlike­ly to go Russia’s way.

Already, unprece­dent­ed protests in Russia are hint­ing that the peo­ple there will have lit­tle patience for anoth­er pro­longed war. I believe if this con­flict appears to be head­ed toward any­thing like the fail­ures of both the Soviet Union and the United States to pre­vail in wars of nation-build­ing, Putin will begin to see his own peo­ple rise up against him. It might even spark a rev­o­lu­tion. It hap­pened in Russia twice in the 20th cen­tu­ry; it can sure­ly hap­pen again.

My point is that most of the world not already in the Russian sphere of influ­ence is in agree­ment that this attack on a peace­ful demo­c­ra­t­ic neigh­bor will not be tol­er­at­ed. This time, the US is on the right side. I find the incred­i­ble strength and resolve of Zelensky and his coun­try­men to be inspirational.

Ukraine is not some remote back­wa­ter. These peo­ple have embraced the West. They live in cities and towns that look much like any­thing in Europe – or, for that mat­ter, America. They want to be part of the EU, of NATO. 

I lis­tened to the voic­es of Ukrainian peo­ple on the radio this morn­ing. Just days ago, they lived lives much like ours. I heard from a com­put­er pro­gram­mer, a teacher, a doc­tor, a moth­er, a father. They don’t want war any more than we do. They did not ask to be invad­ed. They did not choose war. 

They now face the stark choice of flee­ing or fighting.

Most of them have cho­sen to stay and fight. They’re doing it for the same rea­sons we would if Russia were to invade the United States. They’re doing it to pre­serve their way of life, their auton­o­my, their freedom. 

I am proud that Europe and the United States are stand­ing with Ukraine.

I’m will­ing to tol­er­ate high­er gaso­line prices for a time. Compared to what the peo­ple of Ukraine are going through, it’s nothing. 

  • Pete Koutoulas

    Pete is an IT pro­fes­sion­al work­ing in Lexington. Formerly of Campton, he and his wife have lived in Winchester since 2015. Pete is a for­mer week­ly news­pa­per pub­lish­er and for­mer colum­nist for the Winchester Sun. These days, when not work­ing he can often be found on his back porch read­ing or writ­ing, in the back­yard tend­ing to his toma­to plants, or put­ter­ing around in his garage or work­shop. Reach Pete at pete@wincitynews.org.