With the war in Ukraine now in its second month, we’re seeing just how devasting the invasion has been, despite the brave resistance by the Ukrainians. The Russian army has withdrawn from Kyiv after being met with fierce resistance. But the bombing of a Ukrainian train station with at least 52 dead and over 100 injured, should provide a heightened sense that this war needs to end immediately. But instead, there’s one key take-away that glaringly stands above the others. Despite all of the history of war on this planet, and there have been thousands of wars, the world has learned so little. Bound bodies lying in the street, some with their hands tied behind their back. Over two hundred dead children. Millions of Ukrainians forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in other countries, and yet the world sits back and does essentially nothing.
The situation in Ukraine is very complicated. There’s an entire history that most westerners are unaware of but that should bear no impact on today’s conflict. The fact is, Russia unlawfully attacked a sovereign country, and the world did very little to stop it. Why? First, there are many economies dependent on oil and gas from Russia. Without oil imports, their economies would suffer. Hence, the resistance to further sanction Russian oil and gas, although that’s now being discussed. It’s a legitimate concern, but global domination by a dictator, even though that may be overstated, is far worse.
Second and more importantly, leaders are unwilling to stand up to Putin, because he’s a bully. The fear of conflict, and the fear of nuclear war, will keep the free world from ultimately standing up to him. That is, until the world is forced to stand up to him and by that point, we, might find ourselves involved in a much larger conflict. If nothing else, history should have taught us that the world can’t avoid conflict by 1) placating a dictator and 2) staying neutral with the hope that the conflict won’t worsen. One thing we should already be aware of is that sanctions never work. They didn’t work with Iran, North Korea and for the last 60+ years, they haven’t worked with Cuba.
I’m not advocating for war, but I am advocating for drawing a line in the sand. As with all bullies, you either stand up to them, or the bullying continues and worsens. Although it does appear that Russia has pulled back troops from Kyiv, he obviously has his sights set on eastern Ukraine. Out tough him and offer alternatives that allow him to save face while limiting any further aggression and he will back down. Do nothing, and Putin will unquestionably annex parts of eastern Ukraine as he did with the Crimean Península in 2014. Do nothing and we risk Putin declaring war on other neighbors. Do nothing and we risk emboldening countries like China, Iran and North Korea. A word to the wise should be sufficient but will it be?