As 2022 dawned six weeks ago, it was difficult to imagine that America would be reading headlines about two new life-threatening crises in Europe and Asia:
*In Europe, Russian threats to invade neighboring Ukraine, potentially causing the loss of thousands of lives.
*In Afghanistan, a growing hunger crisis that could kill 23 million people after 20 years of war –VOA News December 14, 2021.
Ukraine: In early February, there was hope that potential dangers to millions in Europe would diminish as Russia announced it would reduce some of its forces surrounding Ukraine.
But that turned out to be false. Instead, Russia increased its troops east, north and south of Ukraine by at least 7,000 — raising its encircling troops to more than 150,000.
President Biden, in an address on February 15, welcomed Russian claims that it had pulled back some forces from Ukraine’s border earlier in the week. “That would be good,” the President said, but “it has not yet been verified. His caution was well justified.
“If Russia does invade in the days and weeks ahead,” the President warned, “the human costs for Ukraine would be immense. The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction. Invading Ukraine would prove to be a self-inflicted wound” for Russia.
Ukraine has nearly 40 million citizens. Western forces — including those from both the EU and the United States — have been deployed to Europe to help protect the threatened country.
The U.N. Security Council was due to meet again on February 17 to discuss what many observers have termed “the most serious international crisis since World War II”.
Afghanistan: This is a tableau of tragedy, growing starvation, and decline since the return to power last August 15 of the Taliban as the United States and Western protective forces withdrew.
In mid-January, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that a majority of Afghans — in a country of 40 million inhabitants — are “on the verge of death”.
This, he added, is due to “freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and unprecedented food shortages.” Unlike Ukraine, there has been scant world media coverage of the fate of Afghanistan.
Yet both Ukraine and Afghanistan are dangerous flashpoints. Their combined populations number more than 80 million people. Both are indispensable to international and U.S. national security. Continued urgent attention and firm action by leaderships in Washington, NATO, and freedom advocates around the globe is clearly essential.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More