Why the world is uniting behind Ukraine

Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine on February 24.  This war was premeditated andunprovoked.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient. Their bravery is inspiring the world.

Ghanaians and Americanswatch in horror as Russia’s invading forces have killed and wounded thousands of civilians and caused widespread destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure. We’ve seen Ghanaian students and people of many nationalities caught in Ukraine fleeing Russia’s attacks. 

The people of Russia did not choose this war.  Putin did.  Tens of thousands of Russian citizens have risked their jobs, their livelihoods, and their freedom to protest their government’s senseless war against Ukraine.  Authorities have detained nearly 14,000 peaceful protestors across Russia, yet anti-war demonstrations continue; students, scientists, artists, religious leaders, and many others have signed open letters against the war.  These are deeply courageous acts in a country in which a simple social media post against Putin can have lifelong consequences.To keep the people ofRussia from understanding the scale of his invasion, Vladimir Putin has even banned the words “war” and “invasion” from the media, insisting instead on their calling it a “special military action.”

Together we can reject the lies that are spinning out of Vladimir Putin’s disinformation machine.  The people of Ukraine were attacked for nothing more thandefending their freedoms, refusing to be part of Putin’s aspirational empire.  The freedoms Putin wants to punish Ukraine for are the same ones Ghanaians and Americans cherish – freedom to chart your own country’s future, freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and association.  We stand with Ukraine and other democracies around the world against Putin’s war. 

For months, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United Nations sought a diplomatic solution to a problem Putin invented.  And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his war of choicein violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine that the Kremlin cynically claims it wants to protect.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all accompanying waves of disinformation and outright lies.

Ghanaian students are yet another example of the innocent lives put at risk by Putin’s unjustified war.  Ghanaian families were shocked by the stories of their children trapped in Ukraine, desperate to find a way out.  As a parent, I understand that feeling.  And I can only imagine the feelings of Ukrainian parents – who, like all of us, only want peace and freedom in which to raise their families.  I am humbled when I watch the brave mothers and fathers who are fighting for democracy in Ukraine, even if it means being separated from their children.  It is a huge sacrifice on their part, and one I deeply respect.  More than two and a half million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their country because of Putin’s war.  Three million more could be displaced.

The Ghanaian people chose independence 65 years ago this month.  The Ukrainian people chose independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 30 years ago – a choice that Russia then pledged to respect – and the people of Ukraine continue to choose independence today.  The people of Ukrainehave repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.  The world is watching this war closely.We will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible for atrocities – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Make no mistake, Vladimir Putin sought war.  Ukraine and its allies, including the United States, sought peace.  This was an attack that Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.  He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to discusshis and our security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering through diplomacy and dialogue.

And, despite all of those forces and all that work to intimidate the people of Ukraine, Putin is discovering the hard way that he simply cannot bully Ukraine into submission.  The Ukrainian people’s will to fight for their country and their freedoms shocked Putin’s war machine.  Despite Russia’s vast numerical and equipment advantages, the people of Ukrainepeople have a secret weapon Vladimir Putin never anticipated – a fierce resolve to fight for their country, their freedom, and their future.  The people of Ukraine are fighting for their homes and families and for a brighter future. 

More than30 countries, including the United States, representing nearly half the world’s economy, have announced sanctions that impose immediate and severe economic costs on Russia, cut off its access to high-tech technology, and will block its access to foreign funding sources.  After Putin began his war in Ukraine, the ruble hit its weakest point in recent history, and Russia’s Central Bank closed Russia’s largest stock exchange.  Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself. Last week, President Biden announced the harshest sanction yet: a ban on Russian oil imports.

Putin’s warinUkraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The people of Russia deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has caused. 

Ghana’s has been a voice for a peaceful solution to this conflict.  We appreciate Ghana’s consistent efforts at the United Nations in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and territorial integrity.  I continue to pray for the safe return of the Ghanaian students trapped in Ukraine by Putin’s war, as I pray for the safety of all civilians in Ukraine.

The Ghanaian people are fair and just.  Ghanaians and the people of the world know a lie when we hear it.  History will judge Putin harshly.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

Stephanie S. Sullivan is the United States Ambassador to Ghana.

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