The West has made a gross geopolitical mistake regarding Ukraine. After a massive Russian army, tanks and missiles were assembled on the borders of Ukraine, the U.S. and NATO should have prepared themselves to move into Ukraine quickly to assist militarily in its defence if Russia launched an invasion. Instead, the Western powers declined to respond with direct military involvement to defend the Ukrainian peoples and its nascent democratic society against Russia’s unprovoked and brutal premeditated invasion. To date, the West has acquiesced in Russia’s blatant doubletalk threat that to defend Ukraine would be an act of war against Russia. The Russian bear is allowed to feed. The West’s concession that Russia’s Ukrainian invasion is itself not an act of war is impaired placation.
The West’s weak policy leaves Russia wreaking horrors of inhumanity on Ukrainian citizenry, strangulating cities to starvation and impoverishing its inhabitants. Russian war crimes include bombardment of multiple civilian communities, maternity hospitals and other medical facilities, schools, and attacks on refugee corridors. Russia’s objective, now with non-Russian mercenaries, is to decimate Ukrainian military resources and subdue its civil society, to force the Ukrainian peoples into submission and subservience, and to install a Russian autocracy that will eliminate civil rights, freedoms, and liberties. The politically correct phrase “regime change” disguises the reality of the violent brutality inflicted and the depth of human pain and suffering. Rhetorical sophistry from politicians hides the real dangers to the West from further Russian aggression.
Where are the leaders of the West who had the wisdom to know that narcissistic dictators lie, their imperialistic demands are insatiable, and that their ruthless armed invasions to force others into submission proceed and are not satiated by diplomacy and appeasement? Where are the political leaders who like Churchill (Germany, Italy), Truman (Japan, Korea), Kennedy (Cuba, Berlin), and Reagan and Thatcher (East Germany, Russia) possessed the determination and strength of will to confront directly totalitarian military aggression?
The hard lessons of the 1930s and the ensuing horrors of WWII appear not to have survived economic globalization, while the opposite is a more logical conclusion. Immediate U.S. concerns over rising domestic energy prices and COVID-induced inflation override the long view that Russian policy is to continue to assault Western democracies and civil liberties.
Economic sanctions against Russia and Putin’s sycophants are necessary but are neither an effective deterrent nor a realistic response to deter or counter aggression. Imposing tariffs and financial barriers to trade and penalties on investment can be evaded, like offshore taxable income, in large measure in a world without an international legal order and governed by multiple corrupt dictatorships.
Is the right response, morally or practically, achieved by imposing a financial cost on Russia to hold it accountable for its military subjugation of the populace of a sovereign society and its infliction of the ravages of war on innocent civilians? What is the amount of the financial cost that the U.S. and NATO should demand that Russia pay in reparations for its illegal aggression and suppression of 44 million Ukrainians? How is the cost per person calculated and to whom is it paid? What is the quantum of penal damages for unprovoked conquest and the elimination of Ukrainian freedom? If Russia succeeds, the Ukrainian people will pay the highest cost and Russia will reap the spoils of war from the assets it would have acquired by force.
Donald Trump, who tried to pull the U.S. out of NATO, recently called Putin a “genius” for his “very savvy” invasion of Ukraine. After Putin declared a portion of Russian-controlled Ukraine as independent, Trump proclaimed: “How smart is that? And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper.…” The U.S. politic, stalemated over domestic issues and the Russian invasion, is renewing American isolationism. Some Republican politicians and media have called it a “family dispute,” and others declared “I don’t really care what happens in Ukraine.” U.S. media apologists for Russia’s invasion have stated that “Vladimir Putin does not want Belgium. He just wants to keep his western borders secure. That’s why he doesn’t want Ukraine to join NATO, and that makes sense.”
President Biden’s foreign policy endorses the U.S. “sacred obligation” to protect NATO but it does not extend to non-member Ukraine. The U.S. will defend “every inch of NATO territory,” even if it means World War Three, “although we will not fight the third World War in Ukraine,” Biden proclaimed on March 11. Yes, there is the Article 5 covenant requiring the defence of NATO members. The U.S., however, decides its foreign policy and military involvements abroad to protect and further its national interests, not because of narrow legal contracts. Not often a U.S. President solemnly waves a written document in the air as the reason to avoid confrontation. It is a mistake for the U.S. and NATO to conclude that their mutual interests align with a Russian victory in Ukraine.