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As Russia launched its invasion into Ukraine last week, there was a sense of unity in the news cycle that has been absent for some time, at least in the Western Hemisphere. This makes great sense. Russia’s decision to ignore international law and invade Ukraine under false pretenses represents a threat to the United States and to our European allies. No matter our politics, I suspect that most of us can agree on that.

I am always struck by the realization that we as Americans (and actually, we as people) cannot seem to find unity until there is an external threat felt by all of us. We usually operate as if the enemies of our enemies are our friends. Most of us learned that on the playground in kindergarten. Yet we often fail to evolve beyond this scarcity mindset, to actually make our enemies our friends. In reality, Putin’s decision is consistent with his previous behavior. Russia’s invasion should not surprise us any more than does Russia’s intervention in recent U.S. elections.

I wonder what it would look like for us to view our international relationships through more educated and nuanced lenses. We watched as Putin progressed toward this action. If we were able to disagree, but hear one another, before an external threat emerges, we might recognize international figures who have no interest in collaboration before they prove the reality of the threat. We might effect change instead of simply responding to action.

We also might strive to be present to our other allies more directly affected by such actions. For example, the relationship between the United States and China (already at a low point) will no doubt be impacted by the Russian aggression in Asia. If that relationship declines further, the U.S. will be less safe as a country.

While this thought process applies to international relationships, it also holds true in our families and within the organizations we serve. Why is it so difficult for us as people to come together simply be virtue of our shared humanity, and not as a result of an external threat? Who in your life might you seek bonds with, before you are forced to do so?

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