“We can learn from history, but we can also deceive ourselves when we selectively take evidence from the past to justify what we have already made up our minds to do.”
— Margaret MacMillan (Professor of History at the University of Toronto)
A couple of weeks ago the world was a different place; everyone just going along, doing what they do. Now, we are living a moment of history– for better or for worse.
What were you doing a couple of weeks ago? I was working my job, doing the best I can do; accepting the fact that my little corner of the digital universe was going to slip away, as renewal time was coming up, and I just didn’t have that much to say anymore. Enter Mr. Putin; Trump’s friend; here is a good read from Politico on them.
Mr. Putin is old school: a former Russian intelligence officer, who longs for the days of a reunified and once more powerful Soviet Union; the Soviet Union of the Cold War. Ms. MacMillan wrote an interesting piece in The Globe and Mail. She makes some interesting parallels, and I encourage you to read her writings.
Putin has declared, as his reasons for invading Ukraine the following:
- There is a constant threat from Ukraine.
- NATO had promised not to advance into the former Soviet states.
- He is looking to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Lets have a look under the hood at some of his statements.
#1. There is a constant threat from Ukraine. Has there been? In 2014, the Ukrainian people elected their current president by a ratio of 3 to 1. The new president, who was not a Putin Loyalist won with over 70% of the vote. Russia answered this by annexing the southernmost region of Ukraine, known as Crimea in 2014. Russia also began supporting separatists, who have fought a rebellion in the eastern region for eight years, claiming over 14,000 lives in the process (see BBC.com/news/world-europe-56720589). Ukraine is not a threat to Russia, at least not in a military sense. What Ukraine does possess? A strong national sense of identity; and that will not stand in Putin’s sphere of influence.
#2. Putin claims NATO promised not to expand into the former Soviet territories. This has been debunked by several sources, including Mr. Gorbachev, who was President of the Soviet Union at the time of German reunification. I encourage you to read an article by the Brookings Institute.
The short of it, NATO agreed NOT to build new structures (read military bases) in the GDR after reunification and not deploy foreign (i.e. non-German) troops in the GDR. Even after former Eastern Block nations of Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary were admitted between 1997 – 99; no NATO bases were built. Even after the Baltic States were admitted, NATO did not build bases in these countries.
In 2008, both Ukraine and Georgia petitioned to join NATO. NATO denied both, and stated it had no interest in their joining them. In that same year, Russia launched a “peace enforcement” operation into Georgia, effectively annexing it, and returning it to “Mother Russia.” See the article in the Atlantic Council.
#3. He states he is looking to “demilitarize” Ukraine; all the while supporting an armed rebellion in two eastern regions of the Ukraine. Putin stated that, in order for Ukraine to have “normal” relations with Russia, it should demilitarize (remove their military forces), recognize Crimea and Sevastopol as Russian territory, and renounce plans to join NATO and “negotiate” the Donbass crisis. The Donbass area is home to two rebellions, both of which are backed by Russia.
These demands for “normalization” are outside the realm of reality. The Donbass region is already effectively a Russian zone of occupation, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine by force in 2014. How can one leader of a country demand another country disband it’s military? Would Canada if we asked? Would Mexico? I’d venture to say, probably not. And as far as NATO goes, NATO has made it pretty clear that it does not desire Ukraine’s membership.
Putin also claims that he wants to “de-nazify” Ukraine. I wonder if he knows that the Ukrainian president is Jewish?
Putin is playing from an old playbook. As Ms. MacMillian points out, this is similiar to Germany in the 1930’s when they “went to the aid of germanic people” in Czechlovakia. And we all know where that ended up.
So the question is: What can the West do, if anything to help Ukraine and stop the invasion?
a. Sanctions have been imposed that target Russian financial institutions and business/political elites. Germany has put a kabosh on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and it looks like more crippling sanctions are on their way. There is more we, as a nation can do. Let’s start by NOT buying Russion oil. While government sanctions are good, the civilian sector has taken immediate steps; check out this list by Reuters, of companies that are no longer doing business with Russia.
b. Military aid. That ship may have already sailed; but many countries, including the US, did send in equipment to help the Ukrainian Army prior to the invasion. Now that Ukraine has been invaded, probably not the time to introduce new weapons, but if we have some weapons they are familiar with…, just saying.
The problem is, Russia has nukes, and not just a few, but a bunch. Remember MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction), that little acronym that kept the world safe for 50+ years. If Russia is provoked to much- game over. It starts with a tactical nuke here, we reply, they up the anty… It truly is a mess; and I’m glad I don’t have to make those decisions.
My outlook: Ukraine will fall. The Russians will occupy the cities, and much like during WWII, the partisans’ will harass the occupiers, until they no longer have the (in this case) the will to stay. At that point concessions will be made by both sides, I see Ukraine informally agreeing not to pursue NATO membership, recognizing both Crimea and Bondass regions as Soviet territory, and limiting their military to a “defensive” only role; much like Japan post WWII. In exchange, they will be left alone to practice democracy; much like a European Hong Kong, living under the shadow of the Russian bear.
What say you?