Will Ukraine Send the World into War?
Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Kiev, Ukraine in hopes of averting war between that nation and Russia. Ukraine was mobilizing its army after Russia illegally seized numerous strategic sites on the Crimean peninsula following the ouster of Ukraine’s mind-bogglingly corrupt and brutal pro-Russia “president,” Victor Yanukovich.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for the people of Ukraine was when Yanukovich made a corrupt deal with the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to block Ukraine’s ascension to the European Union -- something the people of Ukraine desperately want in order to block Russian efforts to reassert imperial control over it.
The world’s shock and outrage at Russian aggression was well-reflected when it was mentioned in the first acceptance speech at the Oscars on Sunday by the winner of the Academy Award for best supporting actor. Putin’s actions exposed him before the world at last for what he is: a reincarnation of Stalin, an old-school European megalomaniac bent on nothing save domination and oppression.
Since then, Putin’s propaganda machine has been working overtime. Some truly ludicrous, neo-Soviet lies have been told with a straight face by the most loathsome of his minions, such as that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians had fled into Russia as refugees in terror of the new revolutionary government and that the United States was responsible for the revolution itself. Most of these lies have been immediately exposed and ridiculed, but some unfortunate mythology has still grown up around the unsettling recent events in Ukraine, and it’s important to dispel it.
There are four main myths, generated by Russian propaganda, that are being determinedly repeated pursuant to the “Big Lie” theory.
Myth #1: Russia is just moving to defend its legitimate interests in its naval base in Sevastopol.
Why it’s false: Two reasons. First, there had been no threat of any kind -- none whatsoever, not even verbal -- from the revolutionary leaders to the Russian naval base. Russia’s military action was absolutely unprovoked. Second, the deal giving Russia the right to continue operating this base was made by the maniacal, corrupt ruler of Ukraine whom the people had just deposed. Russia clearly has no right to continue operating this base unless/until the deal was re-examined and reapproved in the light of day. The notion that Russia has any overarching moral or legal right to operate a military base in someone else’s country is simply absurd.
Myth #2: Ukraine is a gigantic liability, a sinkhole that the West should not even consider taking responsibility for.
Why it’s false: Three reasons. First, the West disarmed Ukraine after the collapse of the USSR and in return agreed in writing that it would guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia approved the pact. Second, if Ukraine is such a liability, why is Russia risking World War III to annex it? Third, NATO cannot simply allow Russia to bite off pieces of its adjacent neighbors without challenge. To do so would neuter the Western military establishment and give Russia free rein throughout Eastern Europe. It’s the Sudetenland all over again.
Myth #3: NATO is not capable of forcing back Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Why it’s false: For many reasons, direct military force is not necessary to achieve this goal. The NATO countries can freeze Russian assets, block Russian travel, impose financial sanctions just as Russia is heading into a major recession, and remind Russia that it has many vulnerabilities (like Kaliningrad and the Kuril Islands) that should make it think twice before even dreaming about seeking to annex another country’s territory. More important, NATO can deliver massive numbers of deadly weapons to the Ukrainian army -- weapons that will make Russia pay an unbearable price for every inch of territory it seeks to extract from Ukraine. When so confronted, Putin will back down for one simple reason: he has no other choice.
Myth #4: The revolution against Yanukovich threatens Russians who live in Ukraine.
Why it’s false: The evidence of Yanukovich’s corruption and oppression is far, far beyond dispute. It is documented in photos and videos that have been circulating through the internet for many days now. His snipers opened fire on unarmed, peaceful protesters, and he had looted literally billions from the treasury of Ukraine. The uprising against him was designed simply to halt the bloodletting, and there has never been any kind of threat to Ukraine’s population of Russians. Those people were oppressed and victimized by Yanukovich just as much as everyone else, and they despise him just as much. It is only Russian propaganda that has invented some kind of threat by one group of Ukrainians against another.
Indeed, like a bloodthirsty pack of wolves, thousands of Russians marched through the streets of Moscow over the weekend in support of aggressive military action in Ukraine. Many wore the military uniforms of the USSR, the regime that oppressed the Ukrainians for decades and was responsible for a genocidal famine there. This unbridled imperialistic fervor is the result of Russians believing that they can act with impunity to restore what they see as the “glory” of the homicidal Soviet regime. The world must show the Russians that this is simply not so.
For years now, Russia has demanded that the West not resort to military force in places like Syria, Libya, and Egypt, but rather had insisted that all such disputes must be resolved only at the bargaining table. Yet, without even the slightest pretext, that entire history has been thrown out the window by the Russians as soon as it was they who wanted to utilize military force. Russia is riddled with separatists regions like Dagestan and faces intense pressure from China in the East, and its actions create a precedent that is crazily reckless for Russia to support.
All of Europe is rising to confront Russia’s naked power play, and so is the United Nations. Even the Obama regime, whose weakness in the face of Putin’s repeated imperialistic moves has surely encouraged them, now sees that the loss of Ukraine would be a blemish it could never overcome, and it is moving, though too slowly, to confront Putin as well.
If Putin is not forced to back down, the valiant people of Ukraine, who have already laid down many lives to depose Yanukovich, will be forced to defend their nation from invasion. The consequences of watching that unfold, in the light of the tortuous history of European war, are too horrific to contemplate.
Putin must be forced to back down.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.