Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Words Alone Will not Stop Vladimir Putin

Harsh words do not stop autocratic nationalists from killing their neighbors--harsh actions--specifically, military actions--are necessary. We must confront Vladimir Putin with sufficient force to stop him from conquering Ukraine; every day that we fail to do this increases the risks and the costs, without providing any benefit to us or Ukraine. People like Putin are not deterred by words or by economic sanctions; the lessons of history are clear regarding this. The whole world is watching not just Putin, but us. The United States not only symbolizes democracy, but the United States is the most powerful democracy in the world. Are we willing to fight for freedom, as our brave Founding Fathers did, or will we speak loudly while carrying a hollow stick that we are afraid to swing? 

If U.S. intervention in Ukraine will lead to World War III, then that means that World War III is inevitable, and the only question is whether we prefer to fight that war while Ukraine is independent or after Ukraine has been conquered (or destroyed). If Putin is willing to fight World War III over Ukraine, then nothing we say to him is going to change his mind, which means we can either let him conquer every country he decides to conquer or we can stop him in his tracks right now. Appeasing Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany did not prevent World War II, but appeasement made that war more costly and deadly. It is fair to say if Hitler had been stopped in 1936 then atomic bombs would probably not have been dropped in 1945: the West's fear of a World War will not prevent a dictator from starting a World War, particularly if that dictator believes that his only choice is to conquer or be deposed/killed.

So far, there is no reason to believe that our leaders are capable of rising to this challenge. The defining moment of President Biden's administration is the triumph of the Taliban in the wake of his poorly planned and ill-conceived retreat of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. The Biden administration has yet to find its voice or footing on the most important foreign policy issues ranging from Ukraine to China to Iran to Afghanistan. The world is watching us. Other countries could do more, too, but we have the responsibility to lead the charge.

In Sympathy Isn't Enough for Ukraine, Victor Pinchuk declares:

We thank you for the food, the money, the sympathy and the painted blue-and-yellow flags. But if you want to save us, Ukraine needs planes, antiaircraft and antitank missiles, armed drones and other weapons of war. So I beg our friends in the West: Please give Ukraine the planes and other weapons it needs—now. Stop buying coal and oil from Russia. Don't think about it; don't evaluate options; don't consider. Just do it. Time is life. I ask the European Union to make Ukraine a candidate for membership. An independent Ukraine belongs in the EU.

I know these actions entail risks. But in a deadly fight, you can't help without taking risks. And there are even greater risks to inaction. What will happen if you let Russia tear up the international system, destroy a sovereign nation, commit mass murder? The aggressor can be stopped only with force. We have to match Russia's brutality with our speed, decisiveness and determination. We can't keep worrying that the aggressor will escalate. We must make him worry that we can also escalate.

I hope that President Biden and Congress rise to the challenge, but I am not optimistic; there is nothing about Biden's life and career suggesting that he has what it takes to lead the the Free World during these momentous times, while the loudest voices in Congress speak more about their perceived self-interests than about our national duties and responsibilities.

Mr. Pinchuk concludes, "You have a chance to stand up to evil. Take a risk. Trust your conscience. Save the values and ideals of the West. In this moment of crisis, Ukrainians don’t say SOS, 'save our souls.' Ukrainians' lives are in danger, but their souls are safe. We say to you: Save your souls."

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