It’s about him, it’s about us, and it’s about Ukraine.
First, the Ukrainian crisis concerns the President of Russia Vladimir Putinwho suffer from what historians call the “deviation of rationality” that occurs with 22 years of autocratic rule. Becoming tougher and more isolated over time – surrounded by swindlers and faced with unforeseen resistance from Ukraine – he doubles his deliberate, unprovoked, illegal and immoral war.
Second, however, it is even more about the West and whether we can reverse the “retreat of purpose” among Western democracies over the past three decades. underlined by the erosion of democratic achievements around the world since 2006. Putin is the result of our massive amnesia about what despots do when they are reassured for too long. Ukraine is a direct, but not just a victim.
We answered too little after the Russian cyberattack on Estonia in 2007, The Georgian invasion of Russia in 2008, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military intervention in the Donbas in 2014; Constant cyber attacks by Russia and disinformation on the United States and other democracies; his repression and killing of opponents; and now it is unfolding an international crime scene in Ukraine.
A flurry of announcements over the weekend signals a tectonic shift in Europe and an equally significant shift within the Biden administration to a more assertive stance, indicating a growing awareness that Putin’s aggression poses the same threat to Europe’s future as it does to Ukraine. .
On Saturday, the European Union, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada – country 7, plus the EU – announced unprecedented severe economic sanctions against Russia. “Never before have foreign assets been frozen in the G20 economy,” said Josh Lipsky, director of the Atlantic Council’s Geoeconomic Center. “This could damage the commercial banking system, which is already under heavy pressure due to sanctions, and lead to a sharp weakening of the ruble if the markets open on Monday.”
These steps included removing some Russian banks from the SWIFT system, thereby undermining their ability to act globally; measures that will not allow the Central Bank of Russia to expand its reserves in a way that could undermine the impact of sanctions; and the crackdown on “golden passports” that allowed wealthy Russians to gain access to Western financial systems.
This was accompanied by an announcement by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz an innovative solution to arm Ukraine with anti-aircraft systems and missiles, after which it decided on Sunday to increase defense spending more than 2% of GDP along with a special fund of $ 100 billion for defense investment.
“Russia’s invasion marks a turning point,” Scholz tweeted on Saturday. “It is our duty to support Ukraine to the best of our ability to defend against Putin’s army.”
This, in turn, came close U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has provided another $ 350 million in military support, president’s alarm Joe Biden a growing understanding of what his legacy is on horseback.
Third, of course, the crisis most immediately affects Ukraine, a democracy 44 million country that became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Ukraine’s main threat to Moscow since then has been its example of independence, freedom and prosperity, one that Putin is trying to stifle by lying that its Jewish president, Vladimir Zelensky, and his government are “a gang of neo-Nazis”, Committing war crimes this must be documented and prosecuted.
Zelensky became an unlikely hero who refused to leave the country’s capital Kiev, despite the danger to his life. After U.S. officials offered to evacuate him, Zelensky instead said he needed ammunition and “don’t ride. “
Ukraine’s stubborn resistance has surprised Putin and given Western democracies more time to act. The Ukrainian military and thousands of newly recruited volunteers regained control Kiev Saturday from Russian troops and secret unitsand they continue to resist Russia’s efforts to seize Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.
However, there is no doubt that Putin will double in the coming days and not accept defeat. He only scratched the surface of what damage his 190,000 deployed troops could do. Putin’s ill-considered war now threatens his own survival. And only now delivered Russian nuclear deterrent forces on high alert in a further brazen attempt to threaten the world.
“If fierce resistance from Ukraine will lead to a long and bloody war,” wrote Kiev Yaroslav Trofimov of The Wall Street Journal“Whether it forces Mr Putin to seek to end hostilities without achieving his goals, failure could threaten both his retention of power in Moscow and his quest to restore Russia as a global state.”
Conversely, if Putin is not stopped, his troops will approach the most outspoken members of NATO, once “captive countries” of the Soviet bloc, which are now members of the European Union: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria. There is a consensus directing action this weekend that Putin will not stop at Ukraine.
Perhaps from time to time we need such courageous people as the Ukrainians to remind us of the freedoms we all too often take for granted. For me, as a reporter in Eastern and Central Europe in the 1980s, it was a role played by the Polish people and the Polish Pope in the last years of the Cold War.
A few days ago at the Munich Security Conference the most inspiring moment of the weekend for me was a small private dinner with Ukrainian parliamentarians in their thirties or younger.
One by one, they spoke with the passion of those who understood that they were at the forefront of freedom, appealing to their European and American counterparts to defend the Ukrainian democracy they had inspired.
One former parliamentarian, a young woman who will return to her family in Ukraine the next day to start the war, spoke about the commitments made to Ukraine in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. It was then that the United States, Britain and Russia offered security. guarantees to Ukraine in exchange for its consent to return to Russia all 1,800 nuclear weapons.
Her message: Ukraine has fulfilled its obligations, and now is the time for the United States and its partners to fulfill theirs.
The chance of President Zelensky’s delegation to succeed in negotiations on the Belarusian border with the Russian delegation would be much greater if Putin was convinced that the West supports Ukraine.
–Frederick Kemp is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Council.