“Putin is employing hardware policies. It is a military attack. Military attacks cannot be stopped by UN resolutions. Military attacks cannot be stopped by so-called soft diplomacy that we heard so much of from the White House and the State Department.” This from Putin’s former economic adviser Andrei Illarionov in an interview with US Newsmax.
There is no other way to describe the Russian invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine except as an unprovoked land grab supported by attacks on every major area of the country, accompanied by a ground incursion by Russia’s military. Invading a country in an effort to bring it to its knees without prior provocation is plainly and simply an act of war.
In this case an act of war which was perpetrated after giving the world assurances that there was not going to be an invasion, even in the face of a prior buildup of over 100,000 Russian troops adjacent to Ukraine’s borders.
Sadly, the response of the Western liberal democracies falls short of what is clearly required to stop the monster of Moscow from achieving his goal of taking over Ukraine and returning it to domination by Russia. Diplomacy, while important, will not solve this problem. Setting up facilities to handle the over one million Ukrainians refugees who have fled the country for safer climes is important, but will not solve the problem. History has taught us that force must be met with force and the West may have no choice but to go to war with Russia if the free world is to retain its freedom.
To be sure, it is not only Ukraine that is at risk here. There are a lot of bad actors in the world who are watching what Putin does to determine if they can replicate his actions without penalty in their corners of the world, as well.
The Chinese political leadership would clearly be emboldened by a Russian victory in Ukraine, perhaps enough to grab Taiwan and totally eradicate what is left of free Hong Kong, as well. The Iranians will see a victory by Russia in the face of no opposition by the West as carte blanche to attempt to obliterate Israel.
Russia itself will be further emboldened to act against Scandinavian countries, and has already issued a warning to Finland and Sweden that they had better abandon any ideas of joining NATO. No doubt, other troublesome world leaders will go down similar paths of their choosing.
There is no doubt the war is abhorrent. There is also no doubt that when thinking about going to war and realizing that, as a result, we in the West run the risk of being displaced ourselves, our minds turned to diplomacy. However, reasoning with someone who has a loaded weapon aimed at your head defies logic.
What is at stake here is nothing less than our right to live in a civilized world, where nations observe international norms and recognize the sovereignty of others. When that standard is breached, it must be neutralized at the earliest possible moment. We may have to put everything we have at risk in order to retain as much of everything we have.
In retrospect, it is clear that Putin should have been stopped in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Instead, the leadership of the West chose to look the other way, disinviting Putin to world economic summits but otherwise acting as if what he did there was acceptable. It was not acceptable then and it is not acceptable now. Sadly, the longer the West waits to react in kind, the more difficult it will be to stop the Russian attempt, once again, at world domination.
We need to remember that Putin is willing to go a great deal further in pursuing his ambitions than elected democratic leaders are – a fact he knows, and which he believes gives him a key advantage in his confrontation with the West. He is willing to march up to the very edge of a general war in Europe or perhaps cross that line. He is even willing to put the Russian people through extreme material deprivation, rather than settle for a slice of the pie as meted out by foreign powers. Honor and national pride come first.
Intelligent people know that eventually a war will need to be fought. If the choice is made now to do nothing militarily, there will be another Ukraine and Europe will descend into the kind of chaos that has not been seen since World War II.
But, if all we have seen to date is still not sufficient to convince us that the world is at serious risk of further escalation, one only needs to listen to Fiona Hill, a former US national security adviser who wrote the following about Putin and his potential use of nuclear weapons: “Every time you think, no, he wouldn’t would he? Well yes, he would. And he wants us to know that. It’s not that we should be intimidated and scared. We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what is it that we’re going to do to head them off.”
Some say this is not 1938. Indeed, it is not. Today military technology is far more advanced from what was the norm then, atomic warheads are available in abundance and the damage is instantly visible in the palms of everyone’s hands. It is, to be sure, 1938 on steroids. That means that we actually have less time to act and react.
To ensure democracy, we have to put ourselves at risk before other bad actors try to capitalize on Putin’s success. Every tool at the disposal of the West needs to be used to stop the wanton destruction of Ukraine, which did nothing to justify the Russian invasion. That includes not only extensive economic sanctions but also the physical destruction of Russia’s war machine, at least to the extent that it will cripple the country’s capability to supply its troops in Ukraine with provisions and supplies. Even the Russians themselves could do a patriotic act by taking out the monster of Moscow sooner rather than later, as it does not appear that he has the people with him at the moment.
Former US president, Ronald Reagan said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.” Nobody thought we would be in a state of war in Europe again; nevertheless, given the reality of the situation, there may be no other logical choice but to respond to Russia in kind, frightening as that may be to contemplate. We have been here before and should have learned our lesson. We dare not go down the same rabbit hole once again.
The writer, who has lived in Jerusalem for 38 years, is CEO of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based international business development consultancy. He is a former national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, former board chair of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and chair of the American State Offices Association in Israel.