In the first two decades of the twentieth century, there have been numerous armed conflicts throughout the world that have caused mass devastation. However, I’m willing to bet you don’t know where the “Darfur Conflict” took place, or what event ignited racial tensions in the DRC into the Second Congo War. American media has been extensively covering the unfolding Russian invasion of Ukraine, but has seemingly ignored these other devastating tragedies. Is this just another example of American Eurocentrism, where we see Europe as more valuable than the rest of the world? Or is this conflict really more significant than others we’ve seen this century? And why in the world should we care?
For starters, this conflict has much more bearing on us as a nation and on global politics as a whole than other conflicts in the last twenty years. While other conflicts in the twenty-first century are mostly confined to a single nation or region, the Ukraine conflict pits one of the most powerful militaries in the world against its neighbor who is backed up by several of the other richest nations. This involvement of major world powers is significant in defining the scope of the conflict.
However, major world powers getting involved in armed conflict is not unique in the last twenty years. Troops from America and her allies have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Sudan (Michael Ray, Encyclopedia Brittanica). The difference here is in the nature of the conflict itself and the implications of a victory for either side. Russia is a world power that is directly waging a war to expand its political influence. If they are allowed to win and set up a puppet government in Ukraine, even in a costly and drawn-out war, other authoritarian regimes would start eyeing their neighbors and weighing the potential benefits of a military campaign. This is especially true for America’s other greatest enemy: China. A Russian victory could embolden China to sweep out its more democratic neighbors to the south and west.
If NATO fails to support Ukraine to a victory in repelling its authoritarian invaders, other developing democracies would lose faith in NATO’s ability to defend them. In the case of a Ukrainian loss, it is far less risky for smaller countries to ally with China and Russia against the West. Democracies don’t invade other countries without cause, but Russia has shown that authoritarians will. Ukraine losing this war would greatly weaken democracy across the globe.
Russia is pitching all out war on a country whose only threat to his regime is their freedom and democracy. This is why it matters that Ukraine wins. If democracy can be attacked and brought down in one country, it is vulnerable everywhere.