Ukrainian soldiers take positions in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday.

Ukrainian soldiers take positions in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday. Credit: AP/Emilio Morenatti

The defense against Russia's invasion mounted by Ukrainian soldiers, leaders, and civilians is stirring the rest of the world into a previously unimaginable response.

The severely outgunned Eastern European nation has exploded with resistance to Russian troops. Former retail workers and service employees are donning yellow armbands and digging trenches, grabbing assault weapons and patrolling villages and city streets. Mothers and fathers are donating blood or preparing Molotov cocktails. The defiant actor-turned-president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has rallied his people and refuses to abandon the capital Kyiv. And all the activity appears to be having an initial effect, with the Ukrainian underdogs destroying Russia's vehicles and slowing their inexorable advance, holding out longer than some Western intelligence estimates predicted.

This is also a moment of stunning — and heartening — geopolitical opposition to authoritarian overreach. In a remarkable counter to Russian aggression, the European Union has shown its mettle, closing airspace to Russian aircraft, funding the purchase of weapons, and ratcheting up the financial blows against the country’s bank and oligarchs. Of particular note: Germany’s decision to dramatically increase its military capability, a heavy shift given decades of German commitment to atone for the Nazis' horrors.

Other powers have forcefully responded to Vladimir Putin’s outrageous warmongering. Switzerland, home of neutrality, announced that it would freeze billions in Russian financial assets. Western oil companies committed to disentangle themselves from Russian outfits. Entrepreneur Elon Musk has activated Starlink satellites for Ukraine to provide internet connections. And President Joe Biden has been right to avoid committing ground troops, instead encircling the Russian economy and bolstering NATO. That's a far cry from the rhetoric and actions of his predecessor Donald Trump, who sought during his presidency to withdraw from NATO and block U.S. arms to Ukraine and just days ago praised some of Putin’s "genius" moves in Ukraine.

This moment is one also of fear and terror and blood and shock for Ukrainian civilians, whose cities are now sites of explosions and chaos, and whose roads stream with the anxiety of refugees seeking safety. Live broadcasts on social media deepen the horror of the unfolding land war for a glued-to-the-internet world. Meanwhile, modern technology is its own battlefield, with weapons ranging from propaganda to cyberattacks to the capabilities of satellites to reveal lines of Russian convoys.

Small wonder so many are finding it hard to tear their eyes away from this drama of escalating heroism and tragedy. Most jarring of all: It may last for merely a moment. Russia already is ramping up its enormous military resources, and its air and artillery capabilities would be difficult to overcome. Diplomatic talks have been broached. As in previous inspiring pro-democracy moments, from Tiananmen to Tahrir squares, the future is hardly assured. The crackdown could be swift and brutal.

All the more reason this moment demands attention, action, and commitment by democracies around the world to Ukrainian independence.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.