Today, I, like many other Americans, woke up to news that Russia had launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. For some, this was a shock—not everyone expected that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be brash enough to invade. At time of writing, Ukraine has weathered a storm of missile fire and has lost land but is still free. World leaders have met, and are meeting, to decide how to react to Russia’s aggression—will there be moderate sanctions or strict sanctions? Will military aid be deployed, or just humanitarian? As the world watches and wonders, Ukraine burns.
I have a very personal connection to the conflict. My last name, Prochko (ПРОЦЬКО), is Ukrainian. It’s uncommon here in the states, but very common in Eastern Europe. My family on my dad’s side has been in the states for a few generations, and, as far as I know, there are not any of them left in Ukraine—they likely fell victim to the Soviet genocide by hunger, or Holodomor, which killed over 3 million land owning Ukrainian peasants in 1932-1933. On my mom’s side, my grandmother fled Soviet occupation of then-Czechoslovakia. I have spoken to her many times today, and she sees chilling similarities between the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia following the Munich Agreement and Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine.
One of these chilling correlations is lack of any meaningful Western response. In 1939, after annexing the Sudetenland a year prior, Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia and created the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia under German’s direct control. The West, which had agreed to cede the ethnically German Sudetenland under the belief that Hitler would respect the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia, condemned the German occupation, but ultimately did nothing to stop it. The West acted out of respect for life, and the fear that another world war so soon after the Great War, which we know as World War I, would decimate life as they knew it.
Today, we can see similar movements in the Russian conflict with Ukraine. This conflict is not new—it has been ongoing since the expulsion of the pro-Russian, authoritarian Ukrainian President Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych in 2014. Shortly afterwards, pro-Russian elements rose up in Crimea, equipped with modern Russian weapons. Crimea was soon annexed by Russia, and while the world condemned the action, they did nothing to stop it.
The Russia-Ukrainian War has continued for eight years, albeit at a low intensity. There have been occasional skirmishes and small flareups, but nothing of the scale we see today. This invasion marks the largest occurrence of full-scale war in Europe since the conclusion of the Second World War in 1945. The gravity of this cannot be understated—this is a real, honest-to-God war. And yet, I expect that the world’s response will not reflect that gravity.
Why do I expect that? Is it cynicism, nihilism, or defeatism to expect that the world will idly sit by while Putin gobbles up one of the few remaining democratic governments on his border?
No, it is not really any of those. It is a depressingly realist take on the fact that Russia controls so much of the West’s energy. Thanks to the green-energy hype that has seized America and so many European countries, Europe is now squarely under the influence of Russia. As TPPF discussed in a previous article, Germany gets 25% of its power from natural gas, 98% imported, largely from Russia.
America also imports Russian energy, albeit at a much smaller scale—according to Forbes, in November 2021, America imported about 595,000 barrels per day from Russia. While that does not make up a majority of US imports of oil, it is not an insignificant minority. As a result, both our, and Europe’s, ability to respond effectively to Putin’s aggression is hamstrung. Political leaders and citizens may sympathize with Ukraine’s plight, but willingness to help is likely to be limited by a lack of political will to take actions that will worsen the already-spiraling energy prices.
Now, more than ever, it is important for us to reject the anti-scientific narrative that seeks to weaken domestic oil and gas. The West’s dependence on imports from opponents to democracy, whether in the form of gas imports from Russia or rare earth metals from China, is crippling our ability to respond to threats. If we don’t shore up our ability to respond, Ukraine will not be the last democratic country to fall due to our inability to help—it will be just the first this decade.
This commentary originally appeared in The Cannon Online on February 24, 2022.