Our men vowed to protect Maidan
(Op-ed. The opinions expressed in this article represent those of the author)
Sadly Europe remains a deer in the headlights regarding threats posed by the Russian invasions of Ukraine. Thankfully there is a rising chorus coming from the American Congress – especially the Senate, for the US to more forcefully respond to the lies, death and plundering being meted out in Ukraine. Mr. President, you have been more than patient with President Putin over a wide range of matters, ridiculously so actually. In Syria you tried to let Russia “help” find resolution by cancelling a needed military intervention. Well, we see where that got us – deaths approaching the 100s of thousands, a high multiple of this number displaced, and barbarity running wild.
After asked by European members of NATO over a decade ago to help establish defensive missile systems given a deepening authoritarian track record by Russia, the US/you reversed this policy to accommodate Kremlin grousing. Today you can be sure Central and Eastern Europe- the real battleground within the “grossrealm” presently under focused Russian attack, would be happier, more secure and “positive” about America if those defensive (not offensive) systems were in place. There is also the danger, growth and encouragement of Russophilic, democracy-despising, violence-prone authoritarians throughout this strategic European “near abroad” region.
When Russia gobbled up South Ossetia and Abkhazia, mostly as a brushback to both Europe and the US over Georgia’s seeking to cut itself from Russian domination, there was a lot of “chin-music” from the West, but essentially nothing was done – and these commandeered realties are now under the hand of Russia. When the “little green men” started their Crimean campaign earlier this year, most imagined it was but another “one off” for President Putin which would somehow be resolved; but then a repeat “non-invasion invasion” started in the east and we now see the Donbas region completely flattened by paid marauders without Ukrainian provenance. So much for the “one offs”- we have a clear pattern of behavior here. And let’s not forget about Crimea- as it remains the key property Russia covets most, and cannot be allowed to be unlawfully taken or international law is meaningless.
Since the parties to this conflict met in Minsk to sign the ceasefire agreement in early September – at the very time Russia was cynically launching a decisive re-invasion of Donbas mind you, there have been at least 1,000 people killed in Ukraine, over a million displaced, and over 5,000 total dead from the conflict we know of presently. Shortly after your speech to ensure nervous Baltic states NATO and US would stand strong behind them, Russia ran a nifty little kidnapping operation of an Estonian border guard, claiming he was a spy. This is augmented by constant prodding of Russian nationals in Estonia and Latvia to keep things “hot”.
Mr President, given the Estonian caper was clearly directed at you personally, how explicitly disrespectful must a man be before one stops catering to wild-eyed complaints from someone openly spitting in your eye – in the world’s eye, actually? This is in addition to the deaths, etc. of course. The latest example of mendacity from President Putin is internally directed, as more and more Russian “Cargo 200″ servicemen return from the Ukraine – only to be buried in the dead of night, under strict quarantine of information with no proper military honors or recognition of service. You are surely aware of the mother of a returned serviceman who has been harassed by Putin’s goons as she sought clarity on the reasons for her son’s death, as well as those of others.
When the Budapest Memorandums were signed in 1994, the US and Russia both made explicit guarantees to protect the integrity/sovereignty of Ukraine. These have been clearly violated, and on top of this it seems likely Russia has introduced nuclear weapons into the Black Sea region. This is a most serious violation of at least the spirit, if not letter, of the Budapest agreements, and certainly makes every European seriously uneasy. It also happens to be illegal. One of the oldest members of NATO is Turkey, and they are surely not feeling very comfortable, especially given Russian treatment of indigenous Crimean Turk Tatars.
In the Budapest Memorandums the US made hard commitments to Ukraine – something that has nothing to do with NATO. America is not honoring our obligations to Ukraine under these agreements, and it is making the whole world nervous. We simply cannot accuse Russia of flouting the rule of law when we don’t demand it be enforced ourselves. This is precisely the type vacillation Putin seeks to label the West with – painting the same as being unreliable, weak and unserious. Mr President, all recognize that both the US public and the world are “war weary”, but here is a time to really stand up and be counted.
Anyone who has followed the positively heroic story of Ukraine over the last decade knows the Ukrainian people are indeed serious. Sure they are wracked with problems, having had their national promise stolen by corrupt leaders and a ramshackle “democracy” as shoddy as any of the rest of the global democracies – only made worse because of a long history of Russian control. But make no mistake: this nation’s future, this nation’s success, is not simply “another story” of many. It is as others have said, the single most important geo-political challenge of the modern world – even more so than that of Islamic terrorism. These earnest people deserve a break, Mr President, and allowing Russia to blithely tear up the global order is nothing short of insane. It really is time now to act, and here is a simple idea which might help.
Call up President Putin and tell him straight: the world wants and needs this to end, and all will be well served by such; and all will equally be badly served if there is no timely resolution. Paint the options in very clear terms – “black and white”. If we find accommodation these things happen. If we don’t then these will happen. You and your allies need to start setting the terms for resolving this, and you really can if you simply act. President Putin doesn’t seem to want resolution. You must make him see the price of inaction. Tell him you are more than willing as a gesture of good faith, to come to Moscow along with Chancellor Merkel, and stay in a “locked” room until you three – the ostensible “leaders of the western world”, find a way forward. Commit to find an answer to calm down the mess Ukraine has become. This is the type leadership the people of the world need right now.
If there is reception for such a gesture and a path to actual peace can be found – great. If not, you need to impress upon Putin you will support, among other measures, authorization for the US to provide literally anything Ukraine wants from a defensive hardware point of view. Open wide the US military provisioning catalog and let Ukraine start shopping, with Europe taking on half the bill – split 50-50 by the NATO “partners”. This is all contingent on Russia not reciprocating to your and Chancellor Merkel’s joint offer of resolution. If by some stretch of divine intervention Putin wakes up and a new course can be forged – again great; but don’t hold your breath. All parties available need to be truly ready to respond if Russia balks.
If Russia is unable to accept this “real reality”, the West simply must act for its own security and credibility, and not in the half-hearted manner seen to date. To not do so only undermines international security further – a doubly bad policy outcome. The ironic and actually easy part is all we are really talking about here is arming Ukraine so they can defend themselves. There is no need for US “boots on the ground”. Ukraine will fight their own fight if they have the tools and the strong support of the global community. The time to build that support is now, sir. The timing is right given no honest observer can be unclear as to Russia’s methods and track record. Russia began the madness in eastern Ukraine and they have precipitated this escalated response, not the west.
Call up Senator McCain and tell him you are ready to immediately sit down with him and others concerning not simply Ukraine, but the entire C & E European security portfolio, with Russia being central. Call Chancellor Merkel and let her know you happily stand with her in whatever capacity required. She knows full well the stakes and “unreality” coming from a recalcitrant Kremlin. If Germany, Poland, Britain, Australia, Canada, Turkey and India for starters are on board, it will be even harder for Putin to continue his delay tactics. As mentioned at the recent Kyiv Post Tiger conference, Ukraine would do well to deepen ties with China ,especially in agricultural and other matters to provide strong and ongoing diplomatic support.
For good measure ask all the associated partners to sign on to a diplomatic “boycott” of Foreign Minister Lavrov to ensure all know the lies must stop. The fact this man can walk into any respectable diplomatic engagement and be taken seriously is a disgrace to truth and decency after the “verbal terrorism” he has employed. There is no way to find peace with this man as an involved party. It is time to stand strong for basic human truths, Mr. President. The Kremlin needs to know definitively this is a new chapter- that the present approach is categorically unacceptable.
The challenges in Ukraine represent a bellweather for the entire world. Ukraine’s fight really is the world’s fight. It is the fight of a proud people’s demand for the natural right to self governance – the exact same thing the US and West claim to champion. It most certainly is Europe’s fight, as Ukraine is Europe, and failure to wake up to the realities on Europe’s eastern flank will surely have more serious complications down the line. Russia tests how far they can push the West and modern rule of law which Putin despises, along with democracy. All need to know they can push no further. Fortunately there is an approach in which Russia’s most direct needs can be met – and in truth almost all have been already by President Poroshenko’s generous offer of peace.
As Ronald Reagan so clearly intoned, in some instances disputes really are black and white – as in the case of communism vs. the democratic systems of the West. The same remains true today, as is the fact that if we do not defend our principles, they will be over run by those willing to stand up for theirs – with “theirs” usually meaning nothing more than raw power and death. That world, defined for much of the 20th Century by Soviet Russia, was one we thought we had left behind 25 years ago. It is time to make sure Russia gets the message without ambiguity- the world really has moved on. This is a battle the West and world cannot afford to lose. Despite the bravado, Putin ultimately knows he cannot fight the world. If he doesn’t, then God help us all.
Citizens Media Group/Yornet
Businessman/writer/analyst and resident of Prague, Czech Republic- focusing on elections policy, Constitutional theory, C & E Europe/Ukraine, Atlantic Relations, new conservatism and fostering sustainable democratic change