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The Free World Must Boldly Reject Putin's War on Ukraine, Western Values & the Rule of Law

Vladimir Putin is just another of history's narcissistic madmen willing to spill the blood of his countrymen in order to retain absolute power. Ukraine poses no threat to Russia except as an example of what a free, modern, western democracy can achieve. The former US Ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, made the point this week in an article for the Atlantic Council.

The Atlantic Council: "This crisis was entirely fabricated by Russian President Vladimir Putin; there is currently no threat to Russian security from NATO or Ukraine that can justify the more than one hundred thousand troops he has deployed to Ukraine’s borders and poised for attack. Ukraine is at the center of this crisis solely because its very existence as an independent, democratic state threatens Moscow’s ability to dominate its neighbors and reverse the changes in Europe since the end of the Cold War—ones that have brought unprecedented peace, freedom, prosperity, and cooperation to all countries (including Russia). For Putin, Ukraine’s progress—despite Russia’s efforts to dismember and destabilize it—represents a dangerous example that could inspire the Russian people to seek the same freedom that Ukrainians enjoy. This would endanger the authoritarian regime Putin has built in Russia over the past two decades."

The vast majority of Ukrainians, especially its young people, want nothing to do with Putin's increasingly authoritarian and deeply corrupt regime. 72% of them viewed Russia as a “hostile state," even before the invasion. Putin represents everything the people of Ukraine have tried to escape since the end of the Cold War and they see their future in the European Union [EU].

If he's to retain power, Putin can't allow a successful democracy to blossom on Russia's border and he is betting that the West won't remain united to punish Russia for its aggression. He has good reason to believe that. He's meddled in the Brexit vote, undermined European and American elections, assassinated rivals on foreign soil, jailed his opponents, and shut down most of the free press in Russia with few consequences. Moreover, he believes that the EU is more concerned with its supply of Russian natural gas and the United States is so divided politically that neither has the stomach to punish his aggression vigorously. And, unbelievably, a former American president is cheering on Putin's invasion.

Political Wire: "Former President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin “smart” and criticized President Biden’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a recording of an event at Mar-a-Lago last night."
Said Trump: “I mean, he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart.”

In the next few days and weeks, President Joe Biden and his European counterparts will face a pivotal moment in history. Vladimir Putin must be made to understand that cruel, naked aggression will result in crippling sanctions and other serious consequences. Germany’s suspension of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Biden's targeted sanctions of two Russian banks and that nation's sovereign debt are a solid start. But, more, much more, will be necessary to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine and eventually elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, describes what some of that should look like in a piece today for the New York Times.

Haass, New York Times: "The aim then should be to expand support to Ukraine — military, intelligence, economic and diplomatic — to such an extent as to significantly raise the costs of any Russian occupation." ....
"Though far from a panacea, sanctions against a wider set of people and financial institutions close to Mr. Putin and critical for Russia’s economy can raise them higher still — as would increasing oil and gas production in the United States and the Middle East. Removing the Kremlin’s cushion of high energy prices, which have long been a windfall for the government, would be the best sanction." ...
"The United States should also continue to make public its intelligence that sheds light on Russian intentions to spoil surprises. Traditional and social media with the potential to reach Russian journalists and civil society should counter the Kremlin’s narrative. And images of what is taking place inside Ukraine should reach the world, leaving no doubt about the toll in innocent lives caused by Mr. Putin’s adventurism."

If America and its allies stay united they can derail Putin's plans. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright believes that the Russian president is underestimating the West's response and the long-term impact on his nation.

Albright, New York Times: [Putin's aggression will] "drive NATO to significantly reinforce its eastern flank and to consider permanently stationing forces in the Baltic States, Poland and Romania. (President Biden said Tuesday he was moving more troops to the Baltics.) And it [will] ... generate fierce Ukrainian armed resistance, with strong support from the West. A bipartisan effort is already underway to craft a legislative response that would include intensifying lethal aid to Ukraine. It would be far from a repeat of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014; it would be a scenario reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s ill-fated occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s."

The West's response is not only important to Ukraine, but to the future of global relations. We are either a world of laws and global institutions [however imperfect] or we slip back into Thomas Hobbes's global society of authoritarian rulers in a never-ending dog-eat-dog competition for limited power and resources, a life which Hobbes described as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” China and other dictatorial regimes are watching closely. There is a lot at stake right now.

#Putin #internationalrelations

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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