On Thursday, Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and launched attacks on cities and airports throughout the country, including near the capital, Kyiv. According to The New York Times, “Russian troops moved across the Ukrainian border in multiple areas at once, landing in the port city of Odessa in the south and crossing the eastern border into Kharkiv, the second largest city.” The attack sadly unfolded exactly in line with President Biden’s repeated, dire predictions. Putin, who wields the largest estimated nuclear stockpile in the world, threatened that nations “will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history” for interfering with his invasion.
Ukrainian forces are fighting back and have reportedly shot down six Russian fighters and a helicopter but in all likelihood are no match for the powerful Russian forces. Ukrainian President Zelensky announced that they “will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country” and urged his countrymen to “Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.” Ukraine has a population of more than 44 million people, and panic swept over the country this morning as many could see and feel the impact of the initial attacks with runs on banks and gas stations being reported. Images of long lines of vehicles fleeing west have been widely seen.
This is the largest ground invasion in Europe since World War II. More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers have already been killed with dozens more injured. Both figures are expected to rise.
In addition to the senseless loss and destruction of human lives, there are multiple reasons why we should care about what’s happening between Ukraine and Russia. These reasons are grounded in geopolitical perspectives, humanitarian concerns, and biblical realities.
Ukraine is a sovereign country and a U.S. ally
One of the reasons why Russia’s illegal invasion is so important to pay attention to is because Ukraine is not only a sovereign country but also a democratic partner of the United States. Global leaders cannot invade other nations and claim territory without consequences. Ukraine not only has strategic importance to Europe, but also to the United States. Although Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it is aligned with the United States and other NATO nations in Eastern Europe. As former Ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor stated, “if Ukraine succeeds, we succeed. The relationship between the United States and Ukraine is key to our national security, and Americans should care about Ukraine.”
Putin plainly wants to undo the post-Cold War settlement, restore Russian arms and glory, and force the world to recognize Russia’s place as a global superpower on the international stage. This act of aggression and destabilization fundamentally shifts the previous world order and also further emboldens other authoritarian leaders to seize power around the world.
Cyber attacks could trigger Article 5 of NATO
Although President Biden has emphatically and repeatedly stated that U.S. troops will not be sent to Ukraine, it is possible that Putin will push his attack outside of Ukraine and into neighboring NATO nations. Article 5 of the NATO Charter states that “ . . . an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” NATO has added “cyber” to the definition of possible attacks that could trigger Article 5.
While it is possible that Putin could attack a NATO nation through traditional means, it is thought to be more likely that cyberwarfare could be used. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has outlined two ways the U.S. could be drawn into the conflict through digital warfare: the deployment of cyber weapons in Ukraine that spread to neighboring NATO countries or retaliation against western sanctions through direct cyber attacks targeting key U.S. and NATO member-nation infrastructure.
Russia’s invasion could cause a refugee crisis in Central Europe
As the first attacks were waged in Ukraine, citizens quickly began to flee west, with many attempting to seek refuge in Poland. It has been reported that as many as 5 million people could be displaced as refugees by the war, creating the largest influx of refugees in Europe since the Syrian crisis in 2015.
Poland has already begun preparing to receive these refugees by setting up hospitals and reception centers at its border. The Polish government has also announced that they will accept up to 1 million Ukrainian refugees if necessary. Other Central European nations have also pledged to host refugees and offer humanitarian aid as the situation unfolds, and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is calling on these governments to open their borders and has promised support for those that do. As the crisis continues and violence potentially spreads, Western Europe and the United States must also make preparations to open its doors to these vulnerable refugees.
The Ukrainian Church
Ukraine is home to a vibrant Church and a number of missionaries. Joshua Tokar, director of English language services at Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary, noted, “Ukraine is the main missionary-sending country for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The church is very strong. As far as Europe is concerned, the Ukrainian church is perhaps the strongest and is doing the most for education, training, and sending out workers.”
Many serving in Ukraine have made the difficult decision to relocate out of the country while others have chosen to remain. As Russia invades and potentially seeks a regime change, it is likely that these Christian brothers and sisters, as well as those of other religious minorities, will face intense persecution and human rights abuses. Those that have chosen to stay are committed to meeting the needs of their neighbors as they are able and have said, “When this is over, the citizens of Kyiv will remember how Christians have responded in their time of need.”
The European Union announced announced the strongest package of sanctions ever delivered by the coalition of nations against Russia. The United States had already sanctioned two Russian banks and the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, and in an address to the nation today, President Biden, alongside the G7 leaders, announced additional, more severe sanctions on four more Russian banks and on some exports to Russia. It has also been reported that President Biden could consider massive cyberattacks against Russia for its actions, if provoked. The president had already repositioned thousands of troops in NATO countries in Eastern Europe and announced today the sending of additional troops to Germany and NATO’s Eastern Flank to bolster the alliance’s efforts.
Here in the United States, the crisis will continue to increase already high gas prices as Russia is the world’s second largest natural gas producer and third largest oil producer. Punchbowl news reported, “As of 5:30 this morning, the price of WTI crude oil was $100 per barrel, the highest it has been since 2014. The White House has said that it may release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help keep U.S. gas prices down.”
As Congress attempts to finalize and pass an omnibus spending bill funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year ahead of the March 11 deadline, there will be growing pressure for the inclusion of additional defense and humanitarian aid in the spending package.
A call to prayer
Ultimately, Christians should care about this because millions of image-bearers live in Ukraine. We should urgently cry out to God in prayer for the people of Ukraine. We’ve listed a few ways you can pray specifically below. And this guide from Send Relief has additional suggestions.
- Pray that Christians and missionaries in Ukraine would hope in the Lord and that many would come to saving faith in Christ through their witness.
- Pray for the safety of the citizens of Ukraine as war begins and that their lives would be honored and protected.
- Pray that those fleeing the country and those who will be unable to return home will find a Christlike welcome and a home in a new nation.
- Pray for President Biden and global leaders as they navigate geopolitical tensions and attempt to respond with wisdom and discernment.
- Pray that Vladimir Putin’s heart would be changed and that he would withdraw from Ukraine and not pursue additional aggression.
In the midst of the darkness, may it be that the light of Christ brings hope and help through his people, his Word, and his mercy shown to a war-torn region.
Hannibal Hanschke / Stringer