The Russo-Ukrainian War has been ongoing since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and parts of Ukraine came under pro-Russian rule. The situation greatly intensified on February 24, 2022, when Russian troops invaded the neighboring Ukraine. Since that date, the world has been filled with images and stories from the unfolding events in Eastern Europe.
Almost 4 million people have fled Ukraine, with approximately 6.5 million Ukrainians displaced within their country. Estimates suggest that around one-quarter of all Ukrainians have left their homes over recent months.
After several rounds of negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials, a range of hard-hitting sanctions and numerous political discussions concerning world leaders and global institutions, the situation looks to be no closer to a resolution.
As nations watch on, some individuals have decided to take matters into their own hands. Now, along with people of other nationalities, a number of US veterans have decided to help in Ukraine. Others have traveled to Europe to assist Ukrainian people in humanitarian roles.
Official US Position on Americans in Ukraine
Prior to the February 24 invasion, the White House had already warned Americans to leave Ukraine, sending a firm message that the US military would not undertake rescue missions for anyone trapped in the country.
The current message remains the same. The US has no plans to send the military into Ukraine in any capacity.
The US government’s stance is firm. It does not want American veterans joining the war. While there are no legal restrictions against American citizens becoming foreign fighters, unless it’s to join a group that is against the US government, the president is urging veterans to help the Ukrainian people in other ways.
There is a fear that a US presence in Ukraine could inflame matters further, with the potential repercussion of dragging the US into the war.
Veterans in Ukraine
It’s believed that around 4,000 Americans have expressed interest in joining the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, a recently created foreign legion that the Ukrainian president is eager for people to join.
A further number of US veterans are finding other ways to assist, such as joining other Ukrainian groups, undertaking evacuation missions, distributing aid to refugees and offering medical support.
Some groups require a long-term commitment, whereas others accept short-term volunteers.
At present, there are already US veterans in Ukraine and neighboring countries, in particular Poland. Veterans come from all branches of the US Armed Forces, with a combination of men and women, and people of all ages, lengths of service and service backgrounds.
In addition to the people already in Europe, a growing number of veterans are currently trying to make their preparations to depart for Ukraine. Visa delays are frustrating some eager veterans, and the Ukraine government is trying to follow strict criteria for acceptance to its foreign legion.
People are visiting the Ukrainian Embassy, and some arrests have been made where veterans were kitted out with illegal weapons while outside the embassy.
Reasons for US Veterans Helping in Ukraine
There are diverse reasons for US veterans helping in Ukraine.
Some are motivated by an internal sense of justice and a personal desire to help fellow humans in their time of need. Moved by the plights of Ukrainian men, women and children is a major motivating factor for a number of veterans, with attacks on civilizations often seen as particularly heinous.
A feeling of helplessness is driving some veterans into Europe. Some believe they would overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame if they sat back and didn’t try to assist in some way
Some veterans feel a gross sense of injustice at the uneven playing field of this war: a seemingly much larger and much more powerful aggressor against the unfalteringly brave underdog, as it were. Some are spurred on by the defiance of everyday Ukrainian people, rallying to resist Russian forces.
Several veterans see the Russian attack on Ukraine as an attack on freedom; itself a core American value. Such people see joint the defense of Ukraine as defending freedom, with those who also equate further to see it as a wider defense of America.
Personal beliefs and values play a big role for some veterans who wish to help Ukraine.
There are those who simply miss military action after leaving the Armed Forces, and there are likewise those whose military service didn’t involve combat. Such veterans see this a chance to experience action in war and perhaps prove to themselves and others their combat skills.
For some veterans, conflict is in some way comfortable and comforting; the chaos feels like home. For others, valor and glory are forefront in the mind. For some, the ego drives them more than any self-sacrificing or benevolent ideals.
Naturally, the reason for some veterans helping in Ukraine is a desire to help bring peace to the world.
Fear drives some fighters. Not fear of the fight itself, but fear of losing the fight. News of nuclear power plants burning, for example, and looming threats of nuclear warfare can play a role in encouraging US veterans to stand with Ukraine.
Other Ways to Help Ukraine
There are plenty of ways that anyone, veterans, serving military members or civilians, can help Ukraine and its people without leaving American soil.
Individuals can donate to humanitarian and relief projects to help people receive vital aid and assistance. Donations can also be made to help fund equipment and clothing for the Ukrainian military.
US veterans have a range of useful skills that could assist the Ukrainian army. From combat to first aid, skills and knowledge can be taught and shared virtually online.
Shows of global solidarity also convey a strong message that can ultimately help to usher in peace.
This article originally appeared on USMilitary.org and was shared with permission.