- - Thursday, November 24, 2022

Now entering its tenth month, Russia’s barbaric war on Ukraine has produced the most destructive humanitarian disaster in Europe since World War II.

Consider: Eight million refugees, the majority of whom are women and children as adult males stay home to fight, have been forced to flee Ukraine. Over six million more have been internally displaced and remain stuck in the unforgiving war zone that is Ukraine today. The Kremlin’s merciless armies have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia, while deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure including electrical grids, power plants, pumping stations and purification plants. The Russians have ruthlessly murdered Ukrainian civilians in their homes, schools and hospitals with heavy artillery and Iranian-made drones.

As winter approaches, Ukrainians are suffering, often going without clean water, electricity and basic health care.

The Kremlin’s brutal invasion has destroyed Ukraine’s economy, severely disrupted global commerce and caused long-term environmental damage. Russia’s attacks on fuel depots have released poisonous toxins into the air and groundwater. Russia has destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of Ukrainian forest.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley estimated that the invasion to date has killed as many as 40,000 Ukrainian civilians and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers. Yes, Ukraine is fighting for its existence, but we should not forget this week in particular that it is also on the front lines in defense of the basic and universal principle that a rogue regime should not be permitted to attack its neighbor, slaughter its people and steal its territory.

Ukraine is protecting the rest of Europe from Vladimir Putin’s hostile war machine, which has a long history going back to its horrific war in Chechnya of targeting civilians and military assets indiscriminately. Russia illegally invaded and occupied Georgia in 2008; used banned chemical nerve agents at home and abroad against Mr. Putin’s enemies; illegally annexed Ukraine‘s Crimea in 2014; and provided the military support that enabled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to commit human rights atrocities and use chemical weapons against his own population.

And while it is Kyiv in the crosshairs now, Russia has long seen the U.S. as its principal adversary dating back to the days of the Soviet evil empire. The heroic defense the Ukrainians are putting up now is ultimately our fight, too.

Russia under Mr. Putin has launched destructive cyber attacks against the U.S., spread malware into U.S. security software and allowed cyber hacking groups like DarkSide and REvil, both of which have targeted such critical U.S. infrastructure as Colonial Pipeline, to flourish on its territory.

The Kremlin brazenly interfered in U.S. elections in 2016 and 2020. Earlier this month, just prior to the U.S. midterm elections, one of Mr. Putin’s most loyal allies, Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group mercenaries are fighting in Ukraine, admitted Russia is once again busy trying to undermine the U.S. political process.

“Gentlemen, we interfered,” Mr. Prigozhin stated, “we are interfering, and we will interfere.”

For years, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been tracking overt and covert interference by “Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users” in U.S. elections. Federal prosecutors have brought multiple cases against Russian hackers trying to meddle in our democratic debates.

And consider also Russia‘s many years of material support for Afghan Taliban forces fighting the U.S. and its allies; Moscow’s strategic alliance with Iran, which is now a nuclear threshold state; the increasingly close diplomatic, military and economic partnership with communist China; and Russia‘s close alliances with socialist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela that have long been hostile to the U.S.

So on this Thanksgiving, let’s thank Ukraine for standing up to Mr. Putin and doing more to halt Russia’s brazen aggression than any NATO member has ever done.

Let’s give thanks to those brave Ukrainians who responded to Russia’s full-throttled savagery with courageous resistance and blistering counteroffensives in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson.

And thank you, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for refusing the U.S. offer of assistance to flee into exile at the onset of the war and remaining in Kyiv to lead your nation’s righteous fight for survival. Mr. Zelenskyy’s prophetic words on that day still ring true: “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”

• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.

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