by Noah Tang
One year ago, Ukraine was invaded by its larger neighbor, Russia. While most observers expected Ukraine to fall within days, so far the country has withstood the might of the Russian war machine. Ukraine’s democratically elected government has rallied its citizens to stand up to the invasion. And with the aid of most Western countries, Ukraine has retaken half of the territory that Russia initially overran.
As the war continues into its second year, Western governments and citizens must continually evaluate whether and how to best help the Ukrainians. The outcome of this war will impact the world in general and the United States in particular.
“In many respects, this is a war that pits democracy against dictatorship,” said Dr. Glen Duerr, Professor of International Studies. “While Ukraine is by no means a model democracy, the wider battle is about the autonomy of a people to decide how they should be governed. Moreover, the annexation of territory has been considered a faux pas in international relations since the creation of the United Nations in 1945–something that the Russian Federation, a UNSC member, is violating.”
In this conflict between Ukraine and Russia, such basic political and international principles are at stake.
“First and foremost, it [the war] disrupts the rules-based liberal world order that has been in place since the end of the 2nd World War,” Dr. Christine Kim, Assistant Professor of International Studies, said. “Ironically, Russia has also been part of this order until the war. By violating the international law and norms, Russia dealt a heavy blow to the current liberal world order which was fraying anyway by several factors including a weakening America’s relative power and its growing unwillingness to play its leadership role.”
While the current administration has done much to assist the Ukrainian government, further efforts have been hampered due to concern that Russia might respond by escalating the war. However, President Putin has only backed up his so-called red lines with verbal threats.
“Personally, I think the Biden administration has been driven by national interests and desire to save face, rather than solving the problem directly,” Kim said. “This is evidenced by making promises of standing by Ukraine and providing financial and military supplies. It may help maintain its image as a helper and boost defense industry in America but it fuels further military conflict and prolong the war.”
Duerr believes that the administration could have influenced more nations to support Ukraine and could have sanctioned Russia sooner. Different opinions exist among Americans, including American Christians, regarding the United States’ role in this situation. These range from direct military intervention to isolationism.
“There is no biblical admonition to do anything,” Duerr said. “But, if we seek biblical justice, it behooves Christians in the United States to side with Ukraine provided that the gospel remains a signature piece of aid and support.”
In contrast, Kim said, “I personally don’t think that we as Christians should support either one of the two. …No leaders and no nations are always good or always evil. …We need to pray for the leaders (as commanded by the Bible) so that they can make good decisions.” Kim explains that human lives are worth more than nationalist principles, and she agrees that the gospel must be a priority in this situation.
Another factor complicating American involvement is China’s role in this conflict. While China has officially stayed neutral, its government supports and sympathizes with Russia. China has also attempted to mediate between both sides.
“If Russia loses this war and dissolves, China will lose one of its most significant allies in world affairs. Plus, China has benefited from buying cheap Russian oil and gas in the last year,” said Duerr.
“American policy against China needs to be prudently reconsidered if it wants to avoid confronting the two giants [China and Russia] in one united front against itself,” Kim said.
The Russia-Ukraine war can end in a variety of ways, and experts disagree about which outcome is the best. Some of them believe that Russia must be completely defeated to prevent it from waging another war of aggression. Some even think that Vladimir Putin must be removed from power to ensure lasting peace. Others wish to negotiate an end to the war, arguing that that is the only viable path to peace.
Kim favors the latter option. She said, “The least bad scenario at this point would be that both leaders of Russia and Ukraine come to the negotiation table (mediated by the US, if not the UN) before it is too late and save the faces of both countries by finding a middle ground.” She argues that getting Ukraine and Russia to move forward constructively is the best course.
Regardless of the varying perspectives on this war, all followers of Christ can agree that God is sovereignly working out His will in history. His plan of redemption proceeds unhindered by the evil of man (cf. Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). And we can observe how current events bear out this truth.
“It [the war] is further evidence that we live in a Genesis 3 world where sin is prevalent. Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 that there will be wars and rumors of war in the future, so this conflict should not surprise us. Perhaps most importantly, though, we need to pay attention to world affairs that can have a major impact on our future,” said Duerr.
Kim said, “No perpetual peace is possible in this world until the Lord’s coming. We need to pray for political leaders and world peace as commanded in the Bible.”
Noah Tang is a graduate student majoring in Biblical Leadership, and a writer for Cedars. He likes to spend time with friends, ride his bike, and watch movies.