As the world watches the slow-moving brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine in abject horror, people around the world are repulsed and stunned. But as the arbitrary carnage against innocent civilians unfolds, that disgust and shock harden into anger and resentment. Many are asking how this could happen? The short answer is Western nations have lost the convictions of their principles of democracy and freedom, have grown lazy and weak, and have again deluded themselves into thinking evil may not exist. Western leaders erroneously believe they can accommodate, control, or negotiate with evil. And that’s exactly where evil wants you when evil pounces.
Europeans have had little control of their destiny since WWII without American leadership and strength, so when the United States left the world stage with a corrupt, decrepit president who has been clueless and gutless for half a century, evil actors around the globe knew their opportunity had come. Everyone knows Biden’s corruption, indecisiveness, and weakness invited Putin’s current depredation (which has likely emboldened China), but that’s where we are, and we can’t change that situation anytime soon. So, what can, or should, we do now?
First, we must assess what we know. Vladimir Putin is a dictator, murderer, and thug; and now he a certifiable war criminal attacking a peaceful neighbor without cause and indiscriminately slaughtering civilians in his pure lust for power. Putin has made no secret of his goal to restore the Russian empire. He cheated and murdered his way into power and installed himself as dictator for life. We should have recognized his evil designs when he wouldn't leave power and as he gobbled up Georgia and Crimea. With him proving again he is ruthless by indiscriminately targeting Ukrainian civilians and trying to assassinate Ukrainian President Zelensky, no one should be surprised.
There are no easy answers after the U.S. has so grossly misplayed its hand and thrown away too many cards, but there is a shameful hypocrisy for the U.S. to just watch Ukraine cruelly beaten into submission. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had the third largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. In 1994, Ukraine agreed to nuclear disarmament because the United States guaranteed them that we would assure their sovereignty and defend an independent Ukraine. 28 years later, Ukraine is begging for help and realizing aid may be too late, if it even comes at all. We were probably stupid for promising them protection, but we should be ashamed for not keeping that promise, in the face of such a senseless, vicious attack.
Putin is certainly evil, and he may be an evil genius. He is calculating the West lacks resolve in the face of naked aggression. Contrast Iraq’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both aggrieved countries were arguably inconsequential to vital American interests, but their invasions destabilized their regions, and such bold aggression, left unchecked, only invites more bold aggression. President Bush the elder assembled an international coalition to oust Saddam Hussein and did so in short order. Why isn't a similar response galvanizing for Ukraine? The short answer is Russia has nuclear weapons.
Putin has insinuated he will resort to nuclear weapons if the West intervenes, so we can't ignore that grave threat, and this fact only emphasizes the importance of strong policies that were needed to prevent this almost impossible situation. But it also illustrates that diplomacy will likely not resolve this crisis. Russia can only be stopped militarily, and maybe economically, if Ukraine can hang on for weeks, but economic sanctions probably need months to have an effect.
At this point, economic sanctions are the only tool on the table, so it’s imperative we get serious immediately and diminish the flow of Russian oil. As long as we buy Russian oil, we are financing their military operations in Ukraine. Biden’s dithering on sanctions is cowardly and unconscionable. Until we cut off Putin’s oil money, there’s no reason for him to take us seriously.
Russia must and should be isolated, but the international community must also call out China for supporting Putin and his military adventurism in Ukraine. They are buying Russian coal and other goods and helping Russia move money since international banks are locking them out. China is watching closely and calculating their designs on Taiwan by how the world handles Ukraine. China must be put on notice and held accountable for complicity.
Russia surely thought they could conquer Ukraine in days, but they are stumbling, and Ukrainian resistance is much stiffer than anticipated. While the Russians are still quite dangerous, we are learning that the Russian bear is not as capable as we, or they, thought. Again, Putin only responds to military strength, so NATO must put some teeth into their demands. NATO does not have to engage – but they can arm Ukraine and provide it with military intelligence. And to really get Putin’s attention, NATO should mobilize now and show they are absolutely serious about containing this catastrophe and making clear Putin's aggression is intolerable.
NATO understandably wants to avoid a nuclear confrontation, but NATO must understand that Putin will not stop at Ukraine. It may take a while, but Putin will not be satisfied and will come for more. Until someone puts a dagger to Putin’s throat, so to speak, he will not relent. There is hope that if Putin is thwarted in Ukraine, the Russian threat will be neutered for at least a generation.
Ukraine has been a den of corruption and therefore a continual dilemma, but Putin is the embodiment of evil – he must be challenged. These are all very difficult decisions, but WWII taught us that if we don’t confront evil early, the price later will be exorbitantly high, and sooner or later we will have to pay a considerable price to defeat evil. With the lessons of WWII in mind, the world would have done well to stop Hitler in 1936 when he took Austria, or in 1938 when he invaded Czechoslovakia. We are facing the same kind of situation again, so there is no time for inaction or tepid action. The world must act boldly to face down evil, or the evil will continue to advance.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Pete Riehm is the host of Common Sense Radio heard 8 pm every Thursday on FMTalk106.5 or streaming at fmtalk1065.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on MEWE @PeteRiehm or read all his columns at http://www.renewamerica.com/.kraien© Pete Riehm
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