It Matters!

Democracy is under attack, primarily in America and Europe. Simultaneously the situation in Ukraine grows more dire by the hour. The two are intertwined. I can hear many American voices saying, “Why should I care?” or, “Why should we get involved?”. The answer is because rather you realize it or not Ukraine matters

As of this writing, with the probable exception of a very limited cyber attack, the Russians have yet to make a new attack on the Ukraine. (They have been in a not very subtle “covert war” in the Eastern parts of the country for several years now.) Reports vary but it appears the Russians have about 100,000 troops staged on the border along with their support armaments. That is serious saber rattling! We could both be wrong and neither of us knows for certain, but I’m in President Biden’s camp and think the Russians will do something more than just rattle their sabers.

Ukraine is a struggling democracy. Their military is certainly weak when compared to Russia’s. If it falls to Russia its democracy will also fall. On paper it will still call itself a democracy; remember both Russia and Hungary call themselves democracies.

History seems to repeat itself and current Europe reminds me an awful lot of its 1930s version. Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler in a move that he thought would prevent war; it only fed the monster. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s overriding goal is to reconstitute the old USSR and Ukraine was a part of it. If he is successful in Ukraine he will certainly not stop there. Also, in Russian right wing mythology Ukraine is the “birthplace” of the USSR.

Putin also sees the United States as weakened. We are so polarized that we can’t seem to get out of our own way. Donald Trump was arguably the worst president in American history, yet he lurks in the shadows and could well win reelection in 2024. No doubt Putin sees Trump as potentially a useful idiot again in the future. As the legal walls seem to be closing in on him a conflict in Ukraine would takes some of the press coverage away. Politically Trump relies on his image with the less well informed.

Currently Putin is in the driver’s seat. He is basically immune from criticism at home on the cost of the troop movements. He is testing NATO and the West at little cost. In the process he might extract a concession(s) from them making it worth his while to temporarily pull back and wait for a future opportunity.

If he invades and America and NATO keep their response soft Russia will overrun Ukraine in short order. Their problem will not be the invasion; it will be the occupation. Aside from a few eastern provinces, which they already largely control, the Ukrainians do not want Russian occupation and the people will fight a never ending irregular battle. It will become Putin’s second Afghanistan. His best option is to bluff, extract concessions and retreat. However, that means at least temporarily abandoning his long term goal of reconstituting the USSR.

Although the present Republican party has turned surprisingly pro-Russia, a proxy war in Ukraine could be the attack from the outside that we need to bring us together. As a very smart friend of mine pointed out a few weeks ago, COVID should have been that enemy but the American right wing inexplicably chose to politicize it.

Like most of the rest of the world (very possibly including Putin himself) I’m waiting to see what happens. All I know is that Ukraine matters, I am taking the situation seriously and advise all Americans to do the same. Democracy is not an American exclusive and will not fare well in isolation.

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