Ukraine Doesn't Owe the West Any Thanks
Politicians asking Ukraine to be thankful are missing the big picture. They are disregarding the existential risk facing Western democracy and ignoring Ukraine's courage in fighting democracy's current Public Enemy Number One
At this month's NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and UK Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace, both called for more gratitude from Ukraine, with Wallace saying Britain is not an Amazon for weapons.
Sullivan and Wallace could not be more wrong. Ukraine has had to fight for its own life, its freedom, and even its existence as a sovereign nation, but it has also been fighting a regime that threatens every value that we outside Ukraine cherish and still enjoy.
So, every drop of Ukrainian blood has been shed for global gain.
In an interdependent situation, who should be thanking whom? How do we measure which direction any gratitude should be flowing?
We can answer this by expanding the financial concept of Return on Investment to "Return on Sacrifice." We can consider the sacrifice suffered by Ukraine against the benefit to the country, and then compare this Return on Sacrifice to the West's own return on its Ukrainian "investment." By this measure, the West has already seen a very good democratic return on a very modest sacrifice.
Alternatively, we could just simply ask who has done more for the other. This leads to the same answer: Ukraine—by tipping the global autocracy-democracy balance in the right direction—has done at least as much for the West as the West has done for Ukraine.
It is true that Ukraine's motivation for its sacrifice, courage and determination is for survival rather than expressly to help other democratic nations. However, we can likewise say that the West is helping Ukraine so that its own values have a higher chance of not being turned to dust. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is right to stress that Russia is the common enemy of all democratic nations. Someone, at some point, would have needed to fight Vladimir Putin's Russia. It is simply the way the cards of history have fallen that this responsibility has befallen Ukraine.
The main benefit of considering this "balance of gratitude" is to spotlight that Western assistance is not purely altruistic or some sort of charity. If we accept that we are all in this together, there is, in fact, no need for thanks in either direction.
When the history of the 21st century is written—if it happens to be a story that ends with the survival of democracy and freedom for homo sapiens—it will be clear that the nation that surprised the world by standing up to Putin, and helped save democracy on the planet, should not have thanked anyone.
We should not expect David to thank us while fighting Goliath for the common good.
Demanding gratitude both disrespects Ukraine and undermines the message that we are all in this battle together. It would be much better for leaders to have the vision to explain why thanks are not due.
No civilized person needs to thank another for jointly trying to save civilization.
About the author: Mark Dixon, Founder of The Moral Rating Agency