In times of great political upheaval, there is nothing more dangerous than the passive acceptance of crimes committed on an international scale. While to many Americans the internal turmoil taking place in Ukraine may seem distant and  obscure, it is crucial to understand that Russia’s military involvement in the affairs of an independent country may directly affect the entire world. Remaining in denial is dangerous. If left unchecked, the imperial aspirations of Russia can only grow and its methods escalate.

The intertwined histories of the Eastern European countries are far too complex to be explained here, but the historical precedence proves that such destabilization of a highly developed region with a multitude of interests can lead to grave consequences. Russian intervention (as well as the argument that its nationals are being threatened) is an excuse that echoes ones that the whole world heard throughout the 1930s. The Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 was justified by the alleged ”attack” on a German radio station right outside the Polish border. Hitler’s takeover of the Czechoslovakian so-called Sudetenland was justified by the will to protect the allegedly persecuted German nationals living there. Make no mistake: the minute shots are fired, the conflict will become global and there will be no country in the Northern hemisphere without a stake in it.

But how exactly is the conflict in Ukraine directly connected to the comfortable reality of the U.S.? First, the U.S. is one of the signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that guarantees the security of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, in exchange for its nuclear arsenal. As a signatory, the U.S. has an obligation to act in defense of said territorial integrity.

Another link between the United States and the situation in Ukraine is its responsibilities as de facto leader of the NATO alliance. Ukraine borders Poland, which means that an open military conflict in Ukraine poses a direct threat to it, other Baltic States (see Moldova) and, by extension, to the security of the alliance. All members of the NATO alliance have the responsibility to act in response to such a threat. The U.S., as the most powerful and capable member of the alliance, would have to assume a leadership role in a possible standoff. There is only so much time to avoid landing boots on the ground.

The current situation in Ukraine is changing too fast to predict what will happen next. It is absolutely crucial to take action and firmly manifest to Russia that the core values of the West are, and will be, protected and pursued at all costs. The EU has proven to be a complete disappointment, almost as dysfunctional in this regard as the UN. The prolonged talks over possible sanctions wastes precious time. While the leaders of Europe talk, there are refugee camps already being established in Ukraine. I encourage everyone to devote some time to catch up on the history and geopolitical significance of this region. I suggest reading some of the analyses in the New York Times, the BBC, or any other major Western media outlet. Finally, I encourage you to take active part in exerting pressure on your elected officials to take definitive action to resolve the conflict before it becomes more than just a headline in your everyday reality. What the West seems to be forgetting and what the Ukrainians bravely face every day is the fact that freedom can never be taken for granted.

Pytalski is  pursuing a  

Masters of Arts in Literary Translation.

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