Sorry: 950 words because of the topic.
I was hesitant to write about current events in Europe and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Not because I don’t have an opinion, but because of the sheer amount of stuff floating around about the conflict, the reasons for the war, the lead-up, and the likely outcomes. Given the many opinions, speculations, castigations, and rationalizations about the actions of all involved, one hardly knows what to think.
Thousands of articles argue for each side’s views of the “facts.” I can point to articles painting the West as provocateurs and evil agents and articles painting Russia as instigators with evil intentions.
I can’t claim to know of secret machinations and dark deeds of powerful nations beyond what each side claims.
Is the West instigating these kinds of conflicts? Is Russia stirring dissent within foreign countries? I can readily accept both sides playing a Machiavellian game for some perceived gain.
What bothers me — and what I fall back on — is something I think many people gloss over without realizing it. Namely, what do the people of Ukraine want? Do they have a right to what they want?
Let me step back and give my simplified view of things.
This post began as a comment in response to a somewhat surprising post in a blog I follow; it triggered a stream-of-consciousness response that helped galvanize my thoughts on the matter.
The gist of the post was that the war is a tragedy, that many people will die, and that to preserve lives, the “European Union and NATO should work on Putin’s request to demilitarize Ukraine and the question of Ukraine’s joining NATO.” Also, “if the goal is to save lives, diplomacy is the answer.” The implication being that there’s a diplomatic solution to this . . . apparently, by ignoring/circumventing the will of Ukrainians.
Again, I stress I might be speaking from monumental ignorance, but here’s what I understand, not from pundits, but from Putin and Ukrainians’ words and actions.
I take Putin’s words as sincere and earnest when he says that former Soviet provinces should not join NATO and that he wants former Soviet provinces that have joined NATO to exit the alliance. Just him saying that means he assumes he has the right of sovereignty over those countries and the right to dictate their affairs.
Now step back and understand why those former provinces joined NATO in the first place, and why Ukraine might want to join … because they didn’t, and don’t, want to be under Soviet control. And why does Putin demand they exit NATO? Again, taking him at his word, he believes they rightly belong under Russian control.
It’s worth noting that the citizens of Ukraine who are fleeing the conflict are not fleeing into Russia, and those who stay and fight (not just the army, but regular people) are risking death rather than being under Soviet rule.
What’s to negotiate? What solution could possibly be reached by diplomacy?
Diplomacy has repeatedly failed when it comes to Putin. No matter how I look at this, by his own words, Putin has tasked himself with the recapture of an imagined former Russian glory (i.e., land), and there are no negotiations that have or will dissuade him from that goal. Unless you want to call the man a liar, this isn’t conjecture on my part; it’s a fact.
I liken the situation to that of a school bully who claims the right to bully others . . . What negotiation tactic would result in a compromise satisfying to both the bullied and the bullies?
That’s the reality of the situation. I don’t see a solution that doesn’t include more bloodshed, and I don’t believe that Putin will be satisfied to stop with Ukraine (again, taking him at his word).
Economic, social, and international sanctions might be the way to go if the West has the fortitude to be serious about it, and while they talk a good game, we’ll see what happens when the bill comes due.
For instance, the U.S. gets its uranium from Russia (because it’s cheap) from a company that Putin set up . . . and the U.S. nuclear power industry is lobbying the White House to exclude Russian uranium imports from the sanctions so that they can keep energy costs low. That’s just one example of self-interests conflicting with moral resolve and doing the right thing.
The irony is that the West negotiating trade deals in good faith has enabled both Russia and China to become emboldened in their expansion ambitions. Some might call it ‘greed’ on the part of Western companies and governments, but whatever the reason, the approach was thought to eventually bring peace through economic agreements and trade. . . but, again, I don’t see the commitment to peace and stability from those two countries (the U.S. will face a similar crisis when China decides to move on Taiwan).
While I hope it will not come to pass, it may yet be that Ukraine will fall, many more people will die, and a Russian puppet government is put in place. If that happens, the West likely will do nothing (there are precedents of accepting the ‘new normal’ when it’s in the West’s interest), and millions of Ukrainians will be subject to the tyranny of a despot.
. . . Russia will then have a more extensive border they will claim poses a threat to their security . . . and so it goes.
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