Pick an image, any image, coming out of Ukraine right now and it will break your heart. People evacuating the city with their pets, young couples preparing to defend their homes, the soldier who gave his life to detonate a bridge, the older woman who defied invading Russian soldiers. Heartbreaking, every one.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

If, for some unfathomable reason, the humanitarian plight of the situation fails to strike a chord, we can look at the situation from a purely pragmatic angle.

Ukraine, often referred to as “The Breadbasket of Europe,” is 70% farmland, and agriculture is Ukraine’s largest export and industry, according to the International Trade Administration.

Much of the food Ukraine exports feeds people on the African continent, an area prone to food instability. Not only will that food be lost, but as the dominoes fall, the cost of food for everyone, everywhere, is predicted to skyrocket, triggering a whirlwind of economic uncertainty and threatening to destabilize entire national economies. Including ours.

If global hunger and economic instability don’t alarm you, there are a plethora of other concerns as well.

For starters, Chernobyl.

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The decommissioned power plant has been seized by Russian troops. The employees are being held hostage and in the wake of the chaos and ground disturbance, levels of detectable radiation are spiking. At the moment, it is not anything like a repeat meltdown, but it sure merits thinking about. In addition to the decommissioned site, Ukraine has several active nuclear power plants as well that could be vulnerable to bombs and/or active fire.

Then, too, there are the horrors that come with any war: death, trauma, hunger, disease. The ravaging of a modern civilization with ancient roots. And, the thing is, while no war “makes sense” to me, this one in particular is baffling. Why is Putin doing this? What is he really after?

Ukraine is not, and has never been, a part of Russia. Ukraine was a member nation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) along with Russia and 13 other nations. But that ended well over 30 years ago and Ukraine, along with the other member nations, has been fully functioning as an independent nation since 1991. That “reason” rings false.

Nothing about this invasion makes sense unless its actual purpose is the destabilization itself.

So how shall the world respond? To call for a unified front is obvious. To create one, more complex.

Putin has spent years preparing Russia’s economy against sanctions for just this scenario, and China appears prepared to be Russia’s economic lifeline. So it is unclear what, if any, impact sanctions will actually have. Though I confess, I certainly don’t have a better answer. I don’t know what will work.

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What I do know is that not only is this a humanitarian nightmare rapidly unfolding before our eyes, it is a shibboleth of sorts where our actions, more than our words, will make clear what we value and to what group we belong.

Do we defend (or heaven forbid, praise) the actions of a ruthless and megalomaniacal dictator who feels entitled to kill as he wishes, grab whatever he wants and threaten the world with nuclear annihilation?

Or do we keep faith with freedom? Do we stand with the ideal of democracy and an independent nation’s right to govern itself and remain free from violent incursion?

Where will we stand? What will you choose?

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