Apr 12 2022

Victory for Ukraine, Defeat for Russia: 6 Steps to Holding Putin Accountable

Since the invasion of Ukraine began, Vladimir Putin and his commanders have failed in their campaign to rapidly destroy a democratic nation. 

Due to the effectiveness of the Ukrainian military, the bravery of the Ukrainian people, and the strong leadership of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his team, we enter a sixth week of war even though many predicted the fight would be over in days.

Therefore, it is time for the world to assess the outcome we would like to achieve regarding the current conflict.

With the right support from democracies around the globe, Putin could suffer an embarrassing and stunning loss.

After the butchery in Bucha, the answer could not be clearer – I want to see victory for Ukraine and defeat for Putin. 

The only question in people’s minds is what such a loss should entail. A clear and concise strategy on how the world can ensure the sovereignty of Ukraine and hold Putin accountable includes:

Expanded NATO membership

If Finland and Sweden join NATO, they will make the alliance even stronger.  Additional members of the alliance would further expand the military capabilities of NATO, creating a stronger, more well-rounded force.

Putin’s invasion has crystallized the need for NATO members to meet the 2% GDP spending obligation for defense. Increasing NATO’s presence on Putin’s doorstep would send a strong and clear message that the world will not tolerate his unprovoked invasion, and the freedom-loving world is prepared to curtail any further aggression.

European oil and gas customers abandoning Putin

The effort by European countries to shed themselves of Russian oil and gas should accelerate and include a no-turning-back commitment to that goal.

When this conflict ends and Putin has fewer European customers for his oil and gas, it will be a devastating blow to his ability to wage war. Other countries outside of Europe must also know that there will be consequences should they decide to replace his lost European customers.

Accountability for Putin and his generals' war crimes

There must be an ongoing effort to hold Putin and the generals who carried out the attacks on innocent Ukrainian civilians accountable as the war criminals they are.

The international community should support the International Criminal Court’s investigation and other investigations that arise into his barbarity.

Putin should be viewed as an outlaw and war criminal on the world stage.

A "forgive and forget" approach to Putin and his war crimes will only set the stage for further aggression. If Putin winds up losing this conflict and is left isolated on the global stage, then the brave Ukrainians will not have died in vain.

Continued sanctions punishing Putin’s regime for the invasion of Ukraine

Economic sanctions should remain in full force as long as Putin and his cronies occupy one inch of Ukrainian territory. We must also maintain a firm and unequivocal commitment to keeping the crushing sanctions in place without any loopholes.

Additional weapons support for Ukraine

A loss for Putin is possible if the freedom-loving world goes all-in for victory. All-in means providing the Ukrainian Armed Forces with additional lethal aid and capabilities such as larger Switchblade drones, fighter aircraft, more sophisticated missile defense systems, and tanks to take the fight to Putin.

The Ukrainian military has proven to be a formidable foe and must have the continued ability to defend themselves far in the future. The more damage the Ukrainian military can do the sooner this conflict will end on favorable terms. Lethal assistance is critical to the ongoing fight.

The Ukrainians are committed to victory on the battlefield. The United States and our allies must be as well.

The Biden administration and the western world must not let Putin determine how we assist Ukraine in their fight for freedom.

Zelenskyy’s continued leadership of Ukraine

Last but not least, a devastating loss for Putin would preserve the administration of President Zelenskyy.

In order to ensure a sovereign Ukraine, security guarantees from Western nations like the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and other nations will be needed. These guarantees must ensure the United States, and others, would come to Ukraine’s aid if there were a future invasion.

It is critical that these new security guarantees be stronger than the Budapest Memorandum and reflect mutual defense agreements that the United States has with other nations outside of NATO like South Korea, Australia and Japan.

For this war to end in a way that would deter future wars, Putin must be stopped and a democratic Ukraine must still remain standing.

The world is watching. The strong actions we take today will impact bad actors in the future who may think twice before engaging in conflict. China is less likely to invade Taiwan, and Iran may have a different view of the Western world if we are successful in Ukraine.

This is a historic moment in which we can reinforce all the values freedom-loving people hold near and dear. The best way to honor those killed in Ukraine who have fought valiantly for their freedom, who died at the hands of war criminals, is for Ukraine to be successful.

Republican Lindsey Graham represents South Carolina in the United States Senate.