Those who lived with Russian terror understand Ukraine must become a NATO member, because Ukraine is all that stands between them and a murderous despot. It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what this war is about, for it is about the total conquest and annihilation of the Ukrainian nation and its people and not about NATO. We will soon run out of Ukrainians to fight this fight unless NATO gets serious about defeating, and not appeasing Putin.
By Alexandra Chyczij
July 22, 2023
My close friend’s son, Vasyl Kurnitskyj, died a week ago Friday. He was shot by a Russian sniper while his unit was clearing a recently liberated village of Russian detritus, human and otherwise.
That he died a hero’s death is of little comfort to his two daughters, wife, mother and grandmother. They are inconsolable in their grief as they wait for his body to be returned to them in Ternopil Oblast in western Ukraine.
New of Kurnitskyj’s death was particularly painful, coming as it did only hours after the conclusion of the NATO summit in Vilnius where Ukraine was once again denied membership in NATO and hope was denied to Ukraine’s armed forces and to the people of Ukraine.
In the eyes of all Ukrainians, Kurnitskyj is a hero. In 2014, when Russia’s war against Ukraine began, he volunteered and served in Donbas for almost two years. On Feb. 24, 2022, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kurnitskyj, like millions of Ukrainians, was working in Poland. He immediately returned home to volunteer again, even though he could easily have remained in Poland where his family could have joined him.
But like millions of Ukrainians who have remained in Ukraine, despite the bombing and terror, Kurnitskyj believed he had a duty to fight for his homeland, for his children’s’ future. Kurnitskyj also fought for you and for me and for all of Europe and the western world.
That is why the result of the recent NATO summit was indeed “absurd.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was accused of being intemperate, perhaps bordering on rude, and ungrateful. Zelenskyy was in fact admirably restrained for a man whose soldiers are dying by the thousands, defending the freedom of those who would have him come to them as supplicant, to beg for the weapons that Ukraine so desperately needs in this battle, their battle. Would the western leaders who won’t put boots on the ground have been any more courteous if their sons and daughters were dying?
Ukraine has never asked the allies for boots on the ground, because that would be one bridge too far. The signatories of the 1994 Budapest Agreement, which assured Ukraine’s territorial integrity, now fear that NATO membership for Ukraine would be a “provocation” of the terrorist in the Kremlin, who time and again has demonstrated he is provoked only by weakness.
Ukraine’s neighbours know this too well. Finland and Sweden applied for membership in NATO almost immediately after Russia’s invasion of their neighbour. Poland, the Balts and other neighbours lobbied vigorously for Ukraine to be granted at least a formal invitation, if not immediate membership in NATO in Vilnius last week. Those who lived with Russian terror and know the duplicity of that regime understand that Ukraine must become a member of NATO, because Ukraine is all that stands between them and a murderous despot.
Some have speculated that the promise of Ukraine’s neutrality is a bargaining chip that some western leaders want to save for “peace” negotiations with the Kremlin. To believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be appeased by such a gesture is naïve in the extreme. It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what this war is about, for it is about the total conquest and annihilation of the Ukrainian nation and its people and not about NATO.
NATO is an irritant that Putin plans to wait out. The “sanctions from hell” that never materialized are also an irritant that Putin spent the better part of a decade preparing for. He laughs on his way to the bank every day as he continues to earn billions of dollars in revenue from the sale of oil and gas, despite the sanctions. And now the UN contemplates easing SWIFT sanctions in exchange for a renewed grain deal, which Russia will continue to violate each and every day.
Sadly, the West also wrings its hands over seizing Russian state assets, which Ukraine desperately needs to keep its economy and infrastructure going during this grinding war. They worry about Russian sovereignty while Russia violates the sovereignty of anyone it chooses, over and over, without meaningful consequences.
But time is running out. Zelenskyy knows this and perhaps he was being a tad provocative when he tweeted that the NATO communique was “absurd.” But someone had to rattle the cages of the superpowers who continue to give Ukraine just enough to keep fighting, but not enough to win.
The West cannot fight Putin down to the last Ukrainian. There are tens of millions of Ukrainians who have lost someone like Vasyl Kurnitskyj in this ugly war. We will soon run out of Ukrainians to fight this fight unless NATO gets serious about defeating, and not appeasing Putin.
Give Ukraine the weapons it needs now so that Vasyl Kurnitskyj will not have died in vain.
Alexandra Chyczij is national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.