OpEd by Judith Garber
U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus
March 5-6, 2022
This is a dangerous moment for Europe and all freedom-loving people around the world. By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin also attacked the very pillars of global peace and democracy. But the people of Ukraine are resilient, and their bravery and steadfast rejection of autocracy continues to inspire millions around the world. When the history of this era is written, it will reveal the Kremlin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack for the craven act it is. It will also show that despite a concerted propaganda campaign, Vladimir Putin’s actions left rights-respecting societies more unified than ever before, and Russia exponentially weaker. In defense of Ukraine and the broader principles of democracy, sovereignty, and international law, the resolve of the United States and our Allies and partners across the globe will not waver.
Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War
Putin executed his playbook exactly as we warned. In the weeks leading up to his attack, he methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and accompanying military equipment to Ukraine’s border. He transferred blood supplies and built field hospitals, increased shelling in the Donbas and launched cyber-attacks against Ukrainian government institutions and infrastructure. He rejected every good-faith diplomatic effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and avoid needless human suffering.
And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law. Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine. Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies. By justifying his aggression in Ukraine with fabricated claims of “genocide,” Putin is recycling the same insidious tactics used when the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.
We have been transparent with the world. We declassified our intelligence on the Kremlin’s plans so there could be no confusion or cover up. Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now the Russian people, his people, will bear the consequences of his decision.
United in Our Response
This will not end well for Vladimir Putin. As the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine, democracies around the world united to hold the architect of this war accountable. By moving in close coordination with a coalition representing more than half the global economy, we have magnified our ability to impose maximum costs on Putin, his enablers, and regime. As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed select Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank. President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that restrict Russia’s economy, financial systems, and access to cutting-edge technology. Because Putin waged war rather than invest in the wellbeing of his people, the Russian stock market plunged and the ruble sank to its weakest point in history.
Democracies the world over have united in response to Putin’s assault on Ukraine’s fundamental freedoms. We will limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars and in euros. We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military. We will impair Russia’s access to the global economy. And we are prepared to do more.
Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever
In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity. In the Republic of Cyprus, President Anastasiades and leaders across the political spectrum have condemned Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Cyprus has launched an unprecedented grassroots effort to deliver food, medical supplies, and other humanitarian aid to vulnerable communities in Ukraine. Citizens and residents across the island have come together in protest and in solidarity to voice their unwavering support for the people of Ukraine.
Putin has failed to divide us, and Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.
Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression. In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake: Freedom will prevail. Thank you Cyprus for standing with us as we all stand with Ukraine.