Putin has crossed a Rubicon – Will the West respond?

Six wounded Ukrainian sailors, damaged and seized vessels, and imprisoned crew members are some of the results of the Russian aircraft and ship attack on two small Ukrainian armored cutters and a tug boat who intended to go through the Kerch Straight from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov on November 25, 2018.

Six wounded Ukrainian sailors, damaged and seized vessels, and imprisoned crew members are some of the results of the Russian aircraft and ship attack on two small Ukrainian armored cutters and a tug boat who intended to go through the Kerch Straight from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov on November 25, 2018.  

International, More, Russian Aggression

Vladimir Putin has now done openly what he has denied doing in the past and what most Western leaders have shamefully accepted as an excuse not to face up to his aggression: In the case of the Kerch Straits naval action, Putin has used regular Russian military units to attack and seize Ukrainian ships on international waters.

No longer can anyone take seriously the Kremlin’s insistence that this is the work of “volunteers” or of those Moscow has no knowledge of – Moscow openly acknowledges that its ships were involved – nor one would think, can anyone take seriously Putin’s claims that it is all Ukraine’s fault and that the West must rein in Kyiv to avoid a major war.

Every war in modern times has begun with the aggressor blaming the victim – and Putin is continuing in this sad tradition suggesting even now that “a war party” has taken over in Ukraine. Tragically, at least for the moment, Putin’s stratagem is working with Western leaders reducing the crisis to the question of talks about the return of Ukrainian prisoners.

Not only has Germany’s Angela Merkel focused on the return of Ukrainian sailors rather than on the more important issue of Putin’s new round of aggression, but US officials have made clear that Donald Trump didn’t hold one-on-one talks with Putin in Argentina because of the sailors, not the aggression.

It is time to be clear about what has happened even if few in the West are ready to take actions to prevent the slide toward surrender or a wider war. The After Empire portal is to be complimented for being blunt in this regard:

“The Muscovite empire has crossed a line” with its “open aggression against Ukrainian ships.”

The site quotes Lev Shlosberg, a Yabloko politician from Pskov who has been a consistent critic of Putin’s repressive and aggressive stance. He argues that unless Putin is countered, “such incidents will occur with growing frequency” for domestic reasons if no other: Russians “must be distracted from real problems” and they have “a short memory.”

But Russians are not the only ones who are being distracted and who have a short memory. Western leaders are proving themselves to be the Bourbons of today; like them, they have “learned nothing and forgotten nothing” about aggression in the past and the way their overly cautious response only made things worse.

“Will Russia be excluded from the UN for its open aggression against its neighbors” as the League of Nations did the USSR after Stalin invaded Finland? That’s unlikely, the portal says. “But the West and in the first instance the US must increase sanctions against Russia and increase military assistance to Ukraine in direct proportion to the ways Putin has increased the stakes in the international arena.”

Further Reading:

Edited by: A. N.

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