The Russia-Ukraine War is complicated. There is no black-and-white. There is darker gray against lighter gray, and the entire world is suffering because of this struggle. And the suffering could get a lot worse.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, wounded, or injured. Millions of Ukrainians are now refugees in European Union (EU) countries at a high cost in support and well-being. The U.S has thus far committed $53 billion in aid to Ukraine. EU nations have committed another $30 billion. No end is in sight. What is the US objective? Is it to keep financing a proxy war against Russia? Is it for Ukraine to regain territories seized by Russia in eastern Ukraine and Crimea?
Vladimir Putin is an evil malefactor in Western eyes. Yet in most Russian eyes, he is a strong leader rightly correcting past injustices of the West --- and in particular the US, against Mother Russia. The fall of the Soviet Union occurred in 1989 while Putin was stationed in East Germany with the KGB. He later described the fall as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”
For years Putin called Ukraine a part of Russia since Russia was founded in Kiev in 882 (Kiev in Russian/Kyiv in Ukrainian). The country Ukraine was founded in 1917 by the Soviets. The land itself, for centuries, had been ruled by various empires, including the Mongols, Poles, Turks, and Russians. Present-day Ukraine is divided into the Russian-speaking eastern section and the Ukrainian-speaking western section. A significant part of western Ukraine was once Poland but was assigned to Russia with the signing. of the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, which partitioned Poland into Germany and Russia.
Crimea became part of Russia in the 1700s, and only in 1954 did the Soviet Communist party Secretary Premier Nikita Khrushchev cede Crimea to Ukraine. It is not known why Khrushchev did this, as Sevastopol was the homeport city of the Soviets' Black Sea navy fleet. The vast majority of Crimeans speak Russian and are in favor of being part of Russia.
In 2014, democratically elected Ukrainian pro-Russian president Victor Yanukovych was ousted, fled to Russia, and was replaced by pro-European Union Petro Poroshenko with the help of covert actions by the US. Shortly thereafter, Russia annexed Crimea with no loss of life. Western nations imposed some sanctions against Russia with little effect. The world yawned. The Russian-speaking eastern region of Ukraine then declared independence and established the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Russia covertly supported their independence. More sanctions and the world yawned again. In February 2022, Russia recognized the republics and three days later invaded Ukraine with the purpose of ridding it of Fascists. More Western sanctions followed with increased military aid to Ukraine. The world mostly yawned.
Economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU on Russia are disrupting economies throughout the world. Without Russian gas, EU countries, in particular Germany, are facing winter with reduced heating supplies. Also, German industries are closing due to gas shortages.
Though the sanctions are also hurting Russia’s economy requiring Western technology, they have improved Russia’s profits on oil and gas exports. Petroleum is fungible. By shutting off Russian oil in the West, China and India increased purchases of discount-priced Russian oil and increased Russia’s profits. By conducting these transactions in their currencies, the US's position as the world’s reserve currency is weakened. If the US loses reserve currency status, the cost of $31 trillion in debt will cripple the economy and could consume 40% of the government budget.
President George W. Bush pushed to bring Ukraine into NATO. Instead of disbanding or having a greatly reduced footprint after the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States and NATO, a military alliance formed to fight the Soviet Union, expanded eastward towards Russia with 14 nations formerly aligned with Russia. Putin, from the very beginning of his rule in 1999, had clearly stated that NATO on its borders is a provocation and reason for military action to defend the homeland. (Think American reaction to Russian missiles in Cuba/ Monroe Doctrine).
Putin, in a December 2021 four-hour news conference, demanded that the West “immediately guarantee that NATO will not expand to include Ukraine.” He blamed the US for inflaming tensions and increasing the likelihood of war. He noted in the 1990s, the West had promised Russia it would not expand NATO eastward. They lied, did expand, and are now deploying missile systems.
The danger of escalation is ever present. It is a miracle that no nuclear weapons have been used in war since World War II. Murphy’s Law (if something can go wrong, it will) is universal, with biological/germ, supply, and food chain warfare in the mix of dangers.
The United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, signed a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine to bring Ukraine into NATO. How does this benefit America? At what cost? The US has lost credibility all over the world with its disastrous pullout in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam. So how long will American citizens support Ukraine? The US cannot even defend its own southern border, yet is willing to spend billions of dollars on a far-off corrupt country that the US needlessly supported in provoking nuclear-armed Russia.
Ukrainian President Zelenski has said returning all Ukrainian lands, including Crimea, is non-negotiable. Nonsense --- everything is negotiable in politics. The US government should have as its core mission the welfare of America. Having a prolonged war in Ukraine is not in America’s best interests. Crimea and the Russian-speaking eastern states should stay Russian. The West and the United States should provide military and economic aid for the defense and rebuilding of a new Ukraine.
Peace Through Strength!
We have met the enemy, and he/she is us.
Laurence F Sanford, Senior Analyst American Security Council Foundation, is a veteran of the United States Navy and the Central Intelligence Agency. To read more of his work and learn about the American Security Council Foundation’s “Peace Through Strength” initiates go to www.ascf.us
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