The United States and the European Union salute themselves as bastions for freedom, enlightenment, diversity, tolerance, peace, and the rule of law across the globe. Hundreds of American and European lives and billions of dollars and euros are sacrificed on the altar of these principles each year by our governments. The West’s leadership and its delivery on the promise of these values is lacking, however, in righting the wrongs of a growing, devastating cancer in Ukraine, which has extinguished thousands of lives. The toll of lives sacrificed to the Russian invasion and the Russian-backed aggression in Ukraine is now approaching that of lives lost to the Ebola virus, but where does the West focus its attention and resources?
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objective is to partition Ukraine, its resources, and its people into a new neo-Soviet enclave which he — not its people — will rule, with characteristic, Putin-esque brutality and repression. The forthcoming conquest of Mariupol and Russia’s land-route to Crimea — which Putin illegally ripped from Ukraine nearly a year ago, in brazen violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and all precepts of international law — is Putin’s current objective. It’s an objective which he will easily accomplish, especially in the face of increasingly-shameful Western timidity to respond. So, what is to be done?
Here’s what the West could do, if it actually possessed the true strength and character of its principles . . .
First, Russia is out of the G-20. The G-20 is a group of industrialized nations, with modern political and economic systems that respect peace, respect borders, and work for international comity and security, as well as financial stability. Russia is neither an economic nor political leader; it doesn’t respect either peace or borders, and it harbors no interest in international peace and security. How many Russian forces are engaged against the forces of Islamist extremism, for example? Much of the rest of the G-20 is aggressively engaged to save innocent populations from the brutal devastation of ISIS and other radical Islamist movements, while Russia sits-by, happily on the sidelines, watching as others take-up the fight and suffer the losses against an alarmingly brutal and growing Islamist threat. Under Putin’s dictatorship, Russia is, instead, focusing its efforts on silencing dissension and civil liberties at home, occupying Ukraine and Georgia, serially breaking promises, and fast-becoming a pariah state and its own economic basket-case, as a result. In short, Russia possesses none of the attributes required for membership in the G-20. Russia should be out of the G-20.
Second, the Western powers — the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and all European Union Member States — must ally themselves firmly with Ukraine, providing Ukraine with both meaningful financial and military relief. The United Kingdom has recently provided an entree to this effort through its own initiative. Others should follow. While Putin may not particularly care, nor suddenly be moved to pursue the path of peace, if hundreds more Russian soldiers and their Donbas mafia colleagues lose their lives in the furtherance of his Ukrainian gambit, it is nonetheless vital for Ukraine to at least be able to defend itself. Robust Western aid to Ukraine — in all forms — is essential to this effort. Lives are in the balance. Lives that believe in freedom, democracy, pluralism, and the dignity of humankind. In defense if these values, Ukraine’s poorly-equipped soldiers are dying on the uneven fields of battle with their badly-outdated arms against trained Russian soldiers and an overwhelming modern Russian military power. They fight valiantly, yet they are tragically over-matched against Putin’s army. It’s past time for the United States and other Western powers to supply Ukraine with the best that we can give to them in their efforts to defend their Ukrainian homeland, Ukrainian civilians, peace, and the rule of law. In fact, it’s well past time.
Third, the United States, all European nations, and Ukraine should now be shouting at the tops of their voices at the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, and the international media with their ample proof that Russia has invaded Ukraine and killed its people — including civilians — in an illegal land-grab that violates numerous provisions of the United Nations’ charter. The skilled Russian propaganda machine is kicking the United States and the European Union across-the-floor, quite successfully painting the West as the instigators of a conflict in Ukraine that Russia is now obliged — as a good neighbor — to pacify. It’s all pure manure, of course, but the West is losing the information war — and badly. It’s time for the West to step-up its game when it comes to the truth and the evidence.
Finally, as CNN correspondent Fareed Zakaria has noted, the United States and the European Union could consider removing Russia from the international banking system until Russia can finally learn to honor the agreements which it has signed, and abide by the norms of international law in the 21st century. Without the further loss of a single life on the tragic fields of combat, the West can demonstrate to Russia the importance of actually respecting nations, neighbors, laws, and borders. It can do all of this by taking Russia out of the international banking mechanisms governed by the Society for Worldwide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). This would put Russia on an international financial footing similar to, say, North Korea, and stem Russia’s economic ability to support its continuing invasion of Ukraine. It might even drive Russia into further economic strife. Why would the West do this, however? Especially when Russian Prime Minister Medvedev has stated that such an act would be met with unlimited consequences?
We would do this because, for one, Putin and his gangsters in Ukraine mercilessly killed 298 innocent passengers aboard MH-17 — a crime against humanity for which they have never been and never will be called to account, largely owing to the fact that the West lacks the fortitude even to demand an answer, although Putin’s many victims included children. Putin and his henchmen ruthlessly blew an unarmed civilian aircraft out of the sky . . . and we’ve all just stood by, wringing our hands. How nice for us. How awful for those who suffered from this terrible injustice. Will we, in fact, never respond to this mass-murder of innocents?
We would also do this because it’s clear that the loss of Russian soldiers illegally present in Ukraine — killing Ukrainian civilians and soldiers — is of minor consequence to Putin. He simply doesn’t care if Russian soldiers perish in the pursuit of his ill-conceived frolic. His ability to pay-off his boyars in the Russian oligarchy, however, is of some consequence to him. Putin has fleeced billions of dollars off of the backs of the people who blindly “elected” him. It would be nice if the world’s press finally took notice of this fact, but in the meantime, Russia’s exclusion from SWIFT and the ensuing complication of the means to pay-off his boyars might just be enough to end the conflict in Ukraine, and even to restore peace in Europe. All without firing a shot. We all hope for this, but it will require the kind of leadership from the United States and the European Union — the self-proclaimed guardians of freedom — that we’ve yet to see. We’re all eager to see such leadership. The people of Ukraine who yet believe in Western values are dying to see it, as well. Literally.