It’s easy to see why Ukraine needs our support to stand up to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ruthless aggression. Even David needed a slingshot and plenty of rocks to defeat Goliath. But witnessing the chaos and destruction Putin’s unbounded thirst for power inflicted on my second home, I now see through steeled eyes that stopping Putin is essential to Ukraine and U.S. self-interest. We must continue our support for Ukraine.

My proud Ukrainian parents fled to the United States to escape Stalin’s terror. I moved to Ukraine 16 years ago to work in the nonprofit sphere, and have been shuttling between the U.S. and Ukraine ever since. When Putin attacked in February, I knew I wanted to return. 

Arriving in Lviv as a volunteer in March, I felt exhilarating pride. Our office was a hive of activity as we used donated dollars to purchase flak jackets, helmets, and boots for army volunteers who protect Ukrainian citizens defending their homes, families and freedom. One of my friends even managed to buy two ambulances from Germany and get them to the front lines.

The headiness of those early weeks peaked in May when Ukraine thwarted Putin’s attempt to sack the capital and take control of the country. We knew the war was not over, but David had won the first round.

But Putin doubled down on his ruthlessness. The front line now moves daily as Russia steals territory, stabbing like a knife at towns I know well.

I was well aware of Putin’s ruthless history, but seeing the human impact is so painful. The lives of my boss and her two children shattered in an instant when her husband — a gregarious church youth leader before Putin’s invasion — was killed assisting 40 people sheltering in a school.

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I am home in Seattle for a few weeks now, and I’ve noticed that U.S. news coverage of Ukraine has changed. Yet Ukraine needs the U.S. more than ever.

Without strong and sustained military support from the U.S., David will run out of rocks and Putin will topple Ukraine. The cost to 44 million Ukrainians who will lose their homeland and freedom is obvious. But I wonder if Americans realize what it will cost the U.S. if Putin takes control of Ukraine.

If Putin succeeds in taking Ukraine by force, do we really think he will stop there? An emboldened Russia would be inches away from NATO borders the U.S. is obligated by treaty to militarily defend. Would a direct war between NATO forces and Russia be cheaper or less dangerous than supporting Ukraine now?

China has backed Russia during its invasion of Ukraine. If Russia succeeds, its relationship with China will grow. Russian possession of Ukraine’s grain, steel, coal and strategic seaport accessing world markets would give this power alliance growing economic dominance and leverage over African nations rich in natural resources. If the West lacks sufficient resources to stop Russia, how do we expect developing nations currently flying a democratic flag to withstand this economic pressure?

The U.S. has publicly acknowledged a moral imperative to support Ukraine as it stands strong against Russia’s attempt to take this Western democracy by military force. But as Americans become increasingly concerned about the cost, let’s consider the full price tag of letting Ukraine fall.   

A militarily emboldened Russia with greater wealth, territory, resources and a strengthened partnership with China would be far more costly to the U.S. than helping Ukraine stop Russian expansion now.

Can we really afford not to support Ukraine? The lives and fortunes we save may be our own.