To Intervene or to Not Intervene, that is the Question


Madison Tanner, Contributor

February 24th marked the turning point in a conflict that has been coming to a head for almost a decade. For those unaware of what this might be referring to, it is, in fact, a reference to the looming mushroom cloud of a humanitarian crisis that is the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. 

I am going to briefly summarize what has been leading up to the current full-blown war, but for a more detailed explanation I would go HERE.  

In 2014, armed conflict broke out in Eastern Ukraine between the Ukrainian military and Russian backed forces after Russia took control of the region of Crimea. The Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is still Russian President today and will be until he dies, claimed that Crimea was annexed to protect the rights of Russian citizens and Russian speakers in the region. Formal annexation came after Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation in a disputed referendum. 

In 2015, attempts were made by Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine to come to a peaceful resolution through the Minsk Accords, which would give the Ukrainian government full control through the conflict zone. The efforts to reach a satisfactory agreement were mostly unsuccessful. 

In 2016, NATO began rotating troops through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to discourage future Russian hostility in other European nations. In 2018, the U.S. imposed sanctions on twenty-one individuals and nine companies that had ties to the conflict. Also in 2018, the State Department approved anti-tank weapons being sold to Ukraine, and Ukraine joined eight NATO countries in air-exercises following Russia holding their largest military exercises since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Russia began ramping up to the on-going invasion in October 2021, when Russia began moving troops and military equipment close to the Russian-Ukrainian border. Satellite imagery, intelligence, and social media from November and December revealed heavy weaponry moving towards Ukraine without an official explanation.  Russia issued a set of demands in mid-December that called for the U.S. and NATO to halt military activity in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, to stop further NATO expansion towards Russia, and to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. These demands were rejected.

The war has continued to escalate, with very hesitant prospects as far as negotiations are concerned. A lead negotiator for Ukraine and Russia said that the process could take months. So, with no immediate end in sight for this war, how are we affected?

Despite this war taking place on the other side of the globe from us, we are still affected by it, no matter what some of us may believe. Like one Bob Jones student who said, “Unless our troops were to be attacked, we shouldn’t get involved in a conflict that doesn’t include us.”

 I know that sometimes we Americans like to think we live in an insular bubble and nothing that happens outside our borders has any meaning or impact, but this is an unfounded belief. While we are not too terribly far into this war and many of its ramifications will not be felt until later (at least for Americans), we are still feeling the immediate shockwaves. Those of you who drive and pay for gas have probably already experienced one of them. Another product of the war that may affect the U.S., though probably not as heavily as Europe and poorer countries, is a potential food shortage, stemming from the fact that Russia and Ukraine account for about 30% of the world’s traded wheat.

Now, having established that we will be affected by this war, whether our troops see combat or not, it begs the question of what America’s role is going to be in this conflict. The U.S. has already taken steps to hurt Russia and aid Ukraine, through economic sanctions and weapon packages, but is it enough? Should we be declaring war on Russia and sending thousands of troops overseas to fight in this war? Well…it’s complicated. Both sides of the argument have their merits and pitfalls, and ultimately it is not up to us to make a decision one way or another. But, that does not stop us from having our opinions.

When asked if the United States should intervene in the Russo-Ukrainian war (to a greater extent than our current involvement), many Bob Jones students had one thing on their mind: nuclear war. To boil down several quotes to their base argument: “No, the U.S. should not go to war because that would be the end of the world.” 

Answers to the same question from the opposing viewpoint were a bit more varied in their responses. One student said, “I think we should let Ukraine make their last stand and when they fall, we can go in and get rid of Russia. This way Russia will experience max amount of attrition and the forces will be exhausted.” I won’t pretend to be an expert in warfare, so I have no idea if this would play out the way this student wants it to, but from a purely humanitarian perspective…yikes.

Another student, who is obviously strongly opinionated on this topic, wrote the following paragraph you are about to read; “I think NATO could have and should have prevented this by immediately intervening. Economic sanctions but doing absolutely nothing physically has just been throwing Ukraine to the wolves. NATO should have immediately stepped in and Russia would have backed off. In the lead up to this, I believed Russia would only make a decision to invade or not if they were 100% positive NATO would do nothing. So when they did invade Ukraine, Russia was 100% positive we would do nothing, and Russia was 100% correct.”

Maybe this student is right. Maybe Russia would have backed off if the U.S. showed any signs of direct involvement. Or maybe those amongst us who fear nuclear fallout are right and any day now a rain of warheads will fall upon us. The only way we’ll know is if the U.S. goes to war, and once again, that’s not up to us. The best we can do is stay informed about what is happening outside our small, dysfunctional corner of the world and do what we can to help from afar. 

There is one last thing I’d like to address, and it comes back to this idea of American isolationism and short attention spans. The same student who I referred to as ‘strongly opinionated’ also said, “…every time something happens politically in the world, people think it will escalate into a world war, and yet they forget the entire thing happens later. In a few weeks people will stop posting about this to Instagram, in a few months they will forget about the war, and in a year or so, they will forget Ukraine is even a country to begin with.”

They’re right. Sooner or later, we will start to forget. It happened with Afghanistan and it will happen with Ukraine. For a few weeks in the wake of a crisis, concerned Americans flood social media with outcries of support and calls to arms. Then it stops when it is no longer trendy to pretend to care about people. 

Ukraine won’t forget. The millions of refugees who have been displaced by this war won’t forget. The people who have lost a loved one in combat won’t forget. I have little hope that this time will be any different, but even if the Ukraine is to fall, the least we could do is remember.