One year ago today, Vladimir Putin launched an unjust, unprovoked, and unprecedented act of aggression against Ukraine. Faced with Putin’s atrocities, Ukraine is showing the rest of the world the fragility of democracy and why we all must protect it. It is during this moment in particular, as we reflect on the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine War, that we must recommit to fighting for democracy both at home and abroad.
Since the invasion on February 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin has committed sustained crimes against humanity — and he continues to do so. To date, more than 7,000 innocent Ukrainian civilians have lost their lives. Once thriving and prosperous communities have been desecrated into war zones. The lives of children who simply wanted to be happy will never be the same because of this war. What the country was one year ago is nearly unrecognizable now because of Vladimir Putin’s unjustified lust for power and control.
Yet, through it all, and despite Vladimir Putin’s act of war against an independent nation and democracy, Ukraine has not wavered. They have not stood down. Rather, President Zelenskyy has displayed nothing but true leadership. Ordinary Ukrainian civilians have shown determination, courage, and strength, fighting against Russian forces and for the survival of their country. More remarkable, they are doing so even in brutal, cold temperatures. Ukraine is showing the entire world how to stand up to a bully.
That is a reality that President Biden uniquely understands. From the moment the Ukraine War started, President Biden has positioned the United States as a key and essential ally of Ukraine, sending resources and military equipment and rallying freedom-loving nations around the world to do the same. Earlier this year, President Biden announced that he would provide Ukraine with 31 M1 Abrams tanks—which is the exact number that Ukraine needs to equip a tank battalion.
That’s not all, though. This week, President Biden did something rare; he traveled for more than 30 hours by both plane and train and made a surprise trip to Kyiv, Ukraine. While there, President Biden met with President Zelenskyy in an active war zone — yet another demonstration of our resolve against Russia and our solidarity and commitment to defending Ukraine.
Shortly after his visit to Kyiv, President Biden made a trip to Warsaw, Poland, and gave a historic speech, in which he offered a rallying cry for supporting democracy and Ukraine. More importantly, he called out Vladimir Putin by name, saying, “When President Putin ordered his tanks to roll into Ukraine, he thought we would roll over. He was wrong.” President Biden added, “Democracies of the world will stand guard of our freedoms today, tomorrow, and forever.” In giving this speech on the international stage, President Biden signaled to Vladimir Putin and other autocrats around the world, that democracy will prevail.
But as President Biden is promising to defend democracy and Ukraine at all costs, Republicans here, at home, have something else in mind. A group of Republicans, led by Matt Gaetz, have already proposed a bill that would end U.S. funding for Ukraine because they are too “fatigued.” Not only does this help embolden Russia and Putin — something President Trump did many times during his administration — but it also reveals the extent to which Republicans simply do not care about protecting democracy.
For a Republican Party that espouses freedom and liberty, their actions give no indication that they actually care about either. From a foreign policy standpoint, Republicans are choosing to side with an authoritarian dictator over a democratic country and ally — something that has happened multiple times in recent years. So long to a party that once cared about ending Russian aggression. At home, Republicans across all levels of government are actively trying to strip Americans of their fundamental rights. Whether it is voting rights or LGBTQ+ rights, or what students can learn in the classroom, Republicans are tearing at the fabric of democracy.
Given what is happening in Ukraine, and what Republicans are trying to do to basic freedoms at home, we should all recognize that democracy is not something we can take for granted. Instead, we must actively defend and protect it with all we have.
That requires each of us to do everything we can to vote and get those around us to vote. It means paying attention to what our elected officials are doing and actively urging them to take action on issues important to us. It means using our platforms and voices and speaking up against what Republicans are trying to do. If we don’t, if we let power fall into the hands of Republicans, including people like Donald Trump, again, we may well lose democracy.
One year after the Ukraine invasion, let us all remember that living in a democracy is a privilege. It is an honor. But it also comes with responsibility. No matter our age or where we come from, we must play an active part in ensuring that democracy lives another day. We cannot allow ourselves to become fatigued. We must stay in the fight — as those in Ukraine are literally doing right now.
Giving up is not an option.