“Why should we care about Ukraine?”—a question that some people who have not heard about Ukraine in the headlines might be wondering about. On this year’s Democracy Day, the Ukraine Support Alliance at Stanford invited everyone interested in answers to this question to a conversation former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. With the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ambassador McFaul’s discussion about U.S. support for Ukraine could not have been more relevant. The event could not have happened without an immense support from the Democracy Day organization committee.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador McFaul made a compelling case for why the United States must continue backing Ukraine militarily and economically. He argued that Ukraine’s survival as an independent, democratic nation is essential to achieve important U.S. foreign policy goals like pushing back against the rise of authoritarianism around the world. McFaul also stressed that Russia poses one of the greatest threats today to the rules-based international order that the U.S. works to uphold.

In the Q&A session, McFaul dove deeper into nuanced topics like how the U.S. can effectively manage its relationship with Russia going forward. He acknowledged the struggle in maintaining domestic American support for involvement in Ukraine. However, he emphasized that backing down from defending international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty could seriously damage U.S. global standing and security interests.

The lively discussion provided thoughtful consideration of America’s role in the world and how civic engagement can shape foreign policy decisions. It served as a fitting event for Democracy Day’s goal of fostering reflection on participating in democracy both at home and abroad. Ambassador McFaul’s expertise generated important discussion around supporting democratic values internationally.

See also a recording of an earlier event with Ambassador McFaul covering the topic of why America should care about Ukraine:

Michael McFaul is Director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies in the Department of Political Science, and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1995. Dr. McFaul also is as an International Affairs Analyst for NBC News and a columnist for The Washington Post. He served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014).

In Spring 2021, the Stanford’s Faculty Senate designated Election Day (the Tuesday after the first Monday of November) a non-instructional Democracy Day and a university-wide academic holiday. To recognize that civic engagement isn’t restricted to electoral participation, Democracy Day is held annually, even in years without federal American elections. Democracy Day is meant to encourage voting, participation, civic engagement, dialogue, community-building, and reflection on the role of public service in your life and the lives of others.

Sources: Freeman-Spogli Institute website, Democracy Day website.