As the war in Ukraine grinds on, some things remain clear: The human cost of this war is staggering, and Ukrainian civilians, of course, are paying the highest price. Thousands of lives have been lost, thousands more have been wounded, millions have been displaced, and towns and cities have been destroyed.
What else do we know? We know that the United States and NATO have been provoking Russia for years by, among other things, expanding membership among nations close to the Russian border. We know that Russia had choices about how to respond to those provocations, and it chose to respond with aggression.
We also know that Western responses to the war in Ukraine—constant coverage of the human cost, the recognition of Ukraine’s right to self-determination, and governments’ support in protecting the safety and dignity of refugees—have shown us a powerful model of how to respond to all wars, and how to care for all refugees. At the same time, those Western responses, however laudatory in Ukraine, have simultaneously reflected a deep hypocrisy and enormous double standard rooted in racism and xenophobia when refugees from other countries are involved.
There’s something else we know about the war in Ukraine: It is far more dangerous internationally than Washington’s decades-long global “war on terror.” This war has the potential to escalate to a nuclear exchange between the world’s biggest nuclear powers. The risk is less a calculated decision to use nuclear weapons than the fact that wars take on lives—and deaths—of their own, meaning that an unanticipated mistake by either side could quickly spiral out of control.