Op-ed written by Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, U.S. Ambassador in Brazil, and published in Jornal O Globo on February 23, 2023.
February 24, 2023, marks one year since Russia launched its brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s legacy over these twelve months is clear: up to 15 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced or live as refugees outside the country, as many as 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, including hundreds of children, and tens of thousands more have been injured. Russia has separated thousands of Ukrainian children from their parents, and has looted and destroyed cultural heritage, infrastructure, power plants, cities and agriculture in Ukraine, devastating important food supplies for Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world. And the fallout from Russia’s unjustified aggression is much greater – causing a sharp increase in food insecurity among the world’s most vulnerable people.
12-18 million more people around the globe face food insecurity due to recent food, fuel and fertilizer price shocks, and uncertainty surrounding exports of feed grains, oilseeds, vegetable oils, and wheat from the Black Sea region following Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. The World Food Program estimates the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity at a record 349 million, up from 287 million in 2021, in part due to Russia’s choice to invade its neighbor.
It is nearly impossible to analyze these numbers and not be appalled at Putin’s willingness to violate the UN Charter and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in it. The next twelve months cannot look like the last. Russia’s forced attempt to subjugate its neighbor and redraw Ukraine’s borders by force is a clear, egregious violation of the rules-based international order that has made the world more secure and prosperous for decades. One thing is clear: if Russia stops fighting and withdraws, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.
Today is also a moment to applaud the spirit of Ukrainians in defending their country, their democracy, and their freedom, and to acknowledge the immense international response – in the United States, in Europe and around the world – to Russia’s aggression. We are inspired by a commitment to protecting liberty, democratic values, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and global security. But we are also inspired by the remarkable courage and determination of the people of Ukraine, and we know their fight is part of something much bigger. The Ukrainians need and deserve our collective support, and also our best efforts to help them achieve a just and durable peace. The economic measures imposed by the United States and its partners are specifically designed to promote accountability for Russia’s actions while mitigating their impact on other economies. Today, Russia is relying on countries like Iran and North Korea for support, while Ukraine is supported by over 120 countries around the world, who collectively have provided over 600 billion reais in security, humanitarian, and economic assistance.
The United States and all friends of Ukraine are contributing to a broad range of efforts to defend democracy and to help uphold Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity based on this principle: nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. Brazil is among the many countries who have opened their doors and welcomed Ukrainian refugees in this moment of need. We welcome good faith efforts by partners to help bring about the justice and peace that the Ukrainian people deserve, and to help restore security to the region and greater economic stability to the globe. As President Biden has said, “this is about freedom. Freedom for Ukraine. Freedom everywhere.”