There was much reflection as we entered the second year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
One of the most horrifying personal memories is witnessing the genocide and human rights abuses that have taken place across swathes of our nation. It is vital that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are prosecuted and a structure for this must be set up as swiftly as possible. It is absolutely essential that the west support efforts to establish this.
The west has, after all, played such a vital role in our battle against Russia. The war is after all, not between Ukraine and Russia but between the free world and dictatorship. The good news is, the free world is winning. Although Russia may have dominated in terms of military budget – $61.7 billion in comparison to Ukraine’s relatively meagre $5.9 billion – Ukraine has dominated in three keys areas over the past year.
Firstly, in values. The values of democracy, freedom, rule of law and human rights. These values have been key to winning the war. The Ukrainian people have fought for their sovereignty and independence with the understanding that it is not just a military battle, but a struggle for the fundamental values that define their society. Ukraine’s commitment to democracy, freedom, and human rights has been the driving force behind the resistance to Russian aggression. By standing firm in their belief in these values, the Ukrainian people have shown that they are not just fighting for their own country, but for the ideals that underpin the free world as a whole.
In a world where autocrats and dictators seem to be on the rise, Ukraine’s steadfast adherence to democratic values has been a beacon of hope and inspiration for all those who cherish freedom and human dignity. By defending their own democratic institutions and upholding the rule of law, Ukrainians have not only secured their own sovereignty, but have also demonstrated that the power of democratic ideals can overcome even the most formidable of foes.
The values of democracy, freedom, and human rights are not just abstract concepts, but concrete expressions of the fundamental dignity and worth of every human being. By valuing these ideals above all else, Ukraine has sent a clear message to the world that it will not compromise on the principles that make a just and peaceful society possible. In doing so, Ukraine has shown that even in the face of extreme adversity, it is possible to remain true to one’s core values and emerge stronger for it.
Secondly, in the economy. It is far better to do business with a democratic, free market economy like Ukraine than it is with a dictatorial regime like Russia. In a democratic, free market economy like Ukraine, businesses can operate with less interference from the government and are protected by a legal system that upholds the rule of law. This creates a stable environment for investment and growth. On the other hand, in a dictatorial regime like Russia, businesses are subject to arbitrary decisions and are at the mercy of the whims of the government. This creates an unpredictable and unstable environment for investment and growth, which can deter foreign businesses and investors. In short, a democratic, free market economy like Ukraine is more attractive to do business with and provides greater economic stability than a dictatorial regime like Russia.
Thirdly, in military potential. HIMARS developed in 1993 and Javelin, developed three years later brought the supposed unstoppable Russian army to a halt. Imagine what would have happened if the United States had provided aircraft and other weapons at the very start of the war. The 3.2 per cent of the US military budget transferred to Ukraine is probably the best US investment in history. Ukraine has destroyed 50 per cent of Russia’s military potential – the second biggest threat to the US after China. Not to mention the significant success in wiping out the Black Sea fleet of Russia, a maritime state, despite Ukraine almost not having a military fleet at all. Tyrants like Putin cannot live alongside free people. They will stop at nothing to gain more power. They will take away your freedom if you are lucky. If you are not they will take your lives.
From the start, Ukraine realised that it is either us or them so we have given everything we have to protect our people and fight back against evil, all while maintaining our values.
In addition to my role as a parliamentarian, I also run the largest network of English language teaching centres in Ukraine – The Goncharenko Centres Network. Since the war started even more people are coming to us, not just to learn English but also to do everything they can to support our troops – masking nets, camouflage, help displaced people etc. Values matter.
A year on and we are so heavily indebted to our allies – particularly the United States who have stood by us. We are so close to victory over Russia and removing one of the greatest threats. Wiping out Putin sends a serious message to China, making it clear that the free world stands together against dictatorships and genocide. It demonstrates the importance of our values and promotes the attractiveness of a democratic model to the rest of the world. Crucially, it reduces the chances of a future world war.
I urge the free world to continue support our efforts and provide us with the air capabilities (including F-16) and ATACMS we so desperately need to defeat the Russians. So great a job was done last year by the free world and so higher price was paid by Ukrainians that we can’t lose this historical moment because of hypothetical risks and not being courageous enough. We need to finish this year victoriously and change the course of history.
Oleksii Goncharenko is a Ukrainian MP