Russia and Ukraine: Can America Stay Passive?

The Russo-Ukraine war has the attention of Americans and people all over the world.  The specter of death and destruction of war is unpleasant to watch but, like a train wreck, impossible to take your eyes off.  Away from the battlefield, politicians are posturing while propaganda is promulgated to win hearts and minds.  Biden finds himself an observer of the war after failing to stop it.  How did the U.S. get into this puzzling predicament?

Here's a list of events relevant to the current "special military operation" that Russia is conducting in Ukraine.

  • March 31, 2021: The U.S. military raised its awareness level to "potential imminent crisis" due to Russian troop build-ups on the Ukrainian border.
  • June 16, 2021: President Biden met with President Putin.  There was no apparent purpose for these discussions, and based on a White House statement, nothing relevant happened.
  • July 12, 2021: Putin published an essay revealing his version of history indicating that Ukraine and Russia are simpatico and should never have separated.
  • April 14–August 31, 2021: The U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan.  The result diminished any impression of American exceptionalism.
  • January 9, 2022: The U.S. and Russia commenced negotiations regarding a potential Russian incursion into Ukraine.
  • February 24, 2022: Putin announced a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The war is ongoing, as are negotiations between the Ukrainians and Russians.  The Ukrainians are willing to fight and hold their own against a superior Russian force.  Weapons and technology provided by NATO mix well with Ukrainian gumption.

Russia's armed forces use siege tactics in Ukraine.  They control a perimeter around a city through which nothing is allowed.  Artillery is used to destroy everything inside the perimeter, which is tightened like a noose until the inhabitants surrender or die.

Some consider these tactics war crimes since civilians are killed indiscriminately.  General Grant wrote the book on modern siege strategy during the Battle of Vicksburg.  History justified the war waged by the Union Army because it ended slavery, but Putin may be indicting himself with the facts he is submitting to a candid world.

In a thinly veiled threat, Putin advised, "No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history."  The Soviets were famous for pounding their shoes on negotiating tables, but they never threatened the U.S. with mutually assured destruction if it interfered with their plans to dominate the world.

This is nuclear extortion, which a Russian (or Chinese) leader might use to achieve any objective.  While it's reasonable to approach this crisis with caution, it's not time to cower.  Actions taken by Russia must be countered by the U.S. until Ukraine loses the war or pushes Russia out of the country.

A few thousand Russians have been arrested for protesting their government's special military operation.  Putin must be concerned that this undercurrent of protest will become a mainstream movement.  He accuses the West "of attempting to splinter our society" and "provoke a people's rebellion in Russia."  He goes on to announce a purge: "I am certain that this necessary and natural self-cleansing will only strengthen our country."  Putin won't allow an antiwar movement to gain momentum.

Putin is conjuring Stalin to convince Russians they are exorcising Ukrainian Nazis while their army is besieging Mariupol as the Wehrmacht besieged Leningrad.  The Russian people don't see their army chasing Hitler into a bunker, but they do see Zelensky addressing the legislatures of Western governments.

Zelensky is channeling Churchill, securing weapons from the West.  He pleads the Ukrainian people's case.  He speaks in symbols meaningful to the audiences he addresses.  In the U.S., he evoked the "I Have a Dream" speech of Dr. King.  Zelensky is in the same situation King was in when he walked onto a motel balcony in Memphis.

The war hasn't gone well for Russia, but Ukraine is being destroyed block by block.  People are fighting and dying.  Neither side appears ready to surrender, which means more will fight and die.  The fog of war is thick.  Propaganda is flowing from all sides like wine on a Napa train.

The Biden administration knew about a potential crisis for many months and failed to defuse it.  Ukraine must have been the pretext for the Biden-Putin summit last June.  There was no mention in the White House statement of potential conflict.  It is hard to fathom that a U.S. president can't convince a Russian dictator not to attack a neighboring country.

Biden ran for president in 1988 and 2008, hanging around the corridors of power in Washington for 50 years.  At age 77, the Democrats nominated him.  He seems past his prime, but you have the feeling that if James Baker or Henry Kissinger were at his side, this wouldn't be happening.

When Poland offered MiG fighters, NATO couldn't determine how to get them into Ukraine.  When Poland offered to deliver the jets to an American airbase in Germany, Biden hesitated, suggesting American generals didn't think Ukraine needed them.  Ukrainian generals disagreed, but Biden is confident the generals who tripped over themselves exiting Afghanistan know better what the brave soldiers of Ukraine need than their commanding officers.

Putin believes that Ukraine and Russia are part of "the same historical and spiritual space."  He has declared war on Ukraine to prove the point.  King George III likely thought the U.S. was part of traditional England in 1812.  George III fought a war to prove the point and lost it.  Ukrainians are in a difficult position but fight on.  The U.S. and NATO must be aggressive but not reckless.  Biden has determined that the best way to advance the security and interests of the American people is not to participate in combat operations, but to provide weapons so Ukrainians can defend themselves.

The U.S. has passively arrived at this puzzling position.  Propaganda continues to be promulgated by all involved while the public continues to watch the specter of war from the comfort of their homes.  Is Biden's passivity a portent or a potion to cure his political problems?  We'll know shortly.  The Russo-Ukraine war has the world's attention.

Image via Public Domain Pictures.

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