Ukraine’s courage, like David’s defying Russia’s Goliath, has caught the imagination and support of the free world. Everyone expected the country to crumble under overwhelming Russian military might. Six days later, Ukraine is resisting the Russian juggernaut with unforeseen mettle and determination. Putin must be confounded that his projected slam-dunk occupation is not going as planned.
His troubles began with President Volodymyr Zelensky, who refused the evacuation offer from the United States. “I need ammunition, not a ride,” he (now famously) responded. The young, former comedian with no political experience has evolved into a heroic wartime leader. Zelensky is rallying his people every day, exhorting them to fight in any way they are able. And they are responding. Fiercely. Civilians are taking up arms, studying TikTok video instructions for driving captured Russian tanks, gathering bottles to fill with explosives. Girls are making camouflage nets for their soldiers. A brewery in Lviv stopped making beer, producing Molotov cocktails instead.
Conversely, Putin is revealing himself to be not so much a master strategist, but rather an aging autocrat who, after decades of no opposition, has lost his ability to perceive hard-edged reality. Some of his troops are reported to have surrendered and their tanks run out of gas.
Zelensky’s example is inspiring not only his countrymen, but the entire world. Crowds are protesting Russia’s invasion worldwide, even inside Russia, where thousands have been arrested.
NATO and the European Union have imposed devastating banking sanctions. Germany has executed a complete reversal of its decades of nonintervention: it is now sending military equipment to aid Ukraine and canceling the Russian gas pipeline to stymie Russia; historically neutral Switzerland and Sweden are sending arms to Ukraine. Beyond Europe, Taiwan, Australia and Japan are joining forces with the anti-Russia coalition.
International support for Ukraine is symbolic as well as tangible. Landmarks around the globe are sporting the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag: the Empire State Building in New York, the Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, the London Eye, are just a few of the many. And not only in Europe: monuments in Toronto and Sydney and Tokyo are also illuminated in blue and yellow.
The sports world is joining in. The International Skating Union has barred Russia and Belarus from its competitions. In soccer, some countries threatened to boycott the qualifying games for the World Cup if Russia were a participant. Then the international soccer associations UEFA and FIFA banned Russian teams from competing on the world’s fields for an indefinite period, and St. Petersburg will no longer host the very important Champion League’s final game.
In the entertainment field, Disney is boycotting Russia, and Netflix will no longer carry the propaganda channels required by Russian law, though it means the possible loss of hundreds of thousands of Russian subscribers. Warner Bros. has indefinitely delayed the Russian opening of The Batman, an eagerly anticipated blockbuster film.
Without taking away any appreciation of Ukrainian heroism or the international support it has galvanized, I have to remark that our unhappy world has many conflicts and suffering peoples. Is it right or fair that Ukraine receive so much sympathy and attention while other travails go ignored? African students fleeing the Ukraine to return to their homelands have reported being made to wait at the border for a much longer time than Ukrainians, even being beaten and abused by Ukrainian border guards. Of course, Ukraine and the Slavs are White and European while Africans and Arabs are people of color.