Posts Tagged ‘Invasion’

Quo Vadis, Ukraine?

Monday, February 14th, 2022

A few years ago, a television interviewer asked former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates his impression of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gates said, “I looked into his eyes and saw a stone cold killer.”

Today, that stone cold killer has more than 134,000 Russian troops and all the military hardware that goes with them massed on three sides of Ukraine’s borders, effectively putting the country in a straightjacket. For all practical purposes, the country’s capital, Kyiv, is encircled.

No one knows how this will turn out, but one thing can be said right now: This is an even bigger game of political chicken than the Cuban Missile Crisis of 60 years ago, which brought Russia and the U.S. to the brink of catastrophe. If a diplomatic solution isn’t found that gives Putin a face-saving off-ramp, Russia, Ukraine and all 30 NATO countries, including the U.S., could easily find themselves in another World War.

Article Five of the NATO Treaty begins, “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…” Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and guaranteeing it never becomes one seems to be one of Putin’s major demands.

Only a fool would want to go to war against 30 NATO countries, and Vladimir Putin has never demonstrated he’s anybody’s fool. His build-up of troops has been precise and methodical. Keeping that kind of approach, it is entirely conceivable that without ever firing a single shot in a NATO country, Russia invades Ukraine, captures Kyiv, takes total control of the country, installs a provisional government, along with a puppet “president,” announces stability has returned to the area, withdraws most of its forces, and leaves Ukraine in much the same position it was prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, which Putin has always maintained was the worst thing ever to happen to Russia. As far back as 2005, he called it “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

But once an invasion begins, anything can happen. Poland, Romania. Slovakia and Hungary, NATO members all, sit on Ukraine’s immediate western border, and Latvia and Lithuania lie on the border of Belarus, just to the north of Ukraine, where Russia is conducting “war games” right now.

What can the U.S. and the rest of NATO do about this? As the Biden administration has said repeatedly, no American troops will fight alongside Ukrainians. Instead, it and its NATO allies will levy the severest economic sanctions possible. Our weapons will be….economics.

Now, does anyone really believe that if Russia annexes Ukraine (much like it annexed Crimea in 2014), the threat of the severest sanctions will deter it? It’s just a guess here, but it seems likely to me that Putin will find sanctions well worth it in return for the entire country of Ukraine.

This is tremendously sad to me. I have immediate family who spent a lot of time in both Ukraine and Russia and who wrote an award-winning Doctoral Dissertation on Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004. I have learned that Ukrainians are courageous people who always seem to come up with the short end of the stick, but who persevere, nonetheless. They’ve always been somebody’s pawn, and today is no different. Many Americans probably never knew Ukraine existed until Donald Trump decided to mess with its national security by denying it essential, congressionally-approved and appropriated military equipment to defend itself against just this kind of exigency, all for his immoral personal gain.

Perhaps if the world had taken stronger action in 2014 when Russia took Crimea we might be in a better position now. But things have gone too far, right to the edge of the cliff, and it doesn’t appear anyone is willing to build a hammer big enough to deter what is more and more looking inevitable. The Ukrainians are determined to defend themselves to the last breath, but they’ll need a lot more than determination.

If Ukraine falls, it will change the face of Europe and  increase significantly the reach and power of Putin’s Russia in ways all of us will regret for a long time.

I fear this will not end well.