Appeasing Tyranny in Ukraine: Merkel Rewards Putin's War Crimes and Aggressions
by John Davenport
We've been here before, when Neville Chamberlain tried to appease Hitler's ultra-nationalist movement bent on stirring up ethnic hostilities by giving the Fascists that "German-oriented" part of Czechoslovakia. The Minsk agreement regarding Ukraine copies the infamous Munich agreement handing over the Sudetenland in ways that are too eerie for comfort. Like Chamberlain and his French allies, Merkel and Hollande have no leverage to bargain with Putin's new Russia, because they are not willing to risk a real fight.
Not willing to spend in NATO forces to protect Eastern Ukraine even after Putin's army seized Crimea, thus opening the door for Putin's ultranationalists to go into eastern Ukraine and organize a rebellion there, arm the rebels with heavy weapons, and send unmarked soldiers and officers to help them -- just as Hitler did in the Sudetenland.
Not willing mount an air blockage that could have stopped tanks or armored vehicles moving across the border from Russia into eastern Ukraine without official markings to fight a proxy war against the government in Kiev -- a violent aggression that has taken a third of a sovereign nation's territory, cost thousands of lives, ruined an economy, and made over a million people into refugees all to punish the majority of Ukrainians for wanting to join the EU rather than accept sole trade ties with Russia and bow to Russian control. The people of Ukraine were willing to accept trade agreements with both Moscow and Brussels; they did not deserve such outrageous violence from Putin in response to the grass-roots revolution in the Maidan last spring.
Not even willing to give the Ukrainians better arms to partly counter the heavy weapons and personnel flowing in from Russia, Merkel and Hollande are willing to hand over more of Ukraine and set the precedent that invasion and insurrection fabricated by foreign powers shall be rewarded -- taking us right back to the Cold War, and violating the central principle of international law for almost a century since the Kellog-Briand pact. Merkel and Hollande are barely willing even to impose serious economic sanctions, limiting those adopted by the EU so far mainly to individual Putin cronies rather than to whole economic sectors. Even after the "Putin Youth" in Eastern Ukraine's "novo rousseia" used missiles supplied by the Russian army to shoot down a civilian airliner, Merkel and Hollande have retained their pacifist philosophy, insisting that only a "negotiated" settlement can work, while offering no credible threats with which they could negotiate anything close to a just solution.
There seems to be no end to the offenses from Russia that they will tolerate. Merkel even came to the US to effectively to do Putin's bidding, begging Congress not to supply arms to the Ukrainians. She should be doing the exact opposite: arming Ukraine with German weapons, if nothing more. Thus she encourages new Russian incursions and aggressions throughout the region.
Moreover, the endless appeasement efforts of European leaders have not put one dent in Putin's ability to spread his utter lies across Russia and Russian-speaking areas of nations bordering on Russia: NATO is trying to encircle Russia (although NATO has not even made overtures to Ukraine); the US was behind the revolution in Kiev (in reality it was entirely a product of Putin's own strongarm tactics); ethnic Russians are under assault in these regions (in reality it is the Tartar minority and western-sympathizing citizens who have been persecuted in "novo rousseia"); Europe and the US are trying to impose gay marriage on Russians (incredibly this gets cited as one of the main grievances -- popularizing this myth has proven an effective tactic in getting the Russian Orthodox Church to back Putin's tyrannical tactics to suppress opposition within his own nation).
Why have our leaders not done more to take control of the narrative away from Putin's immense lies? He spreads them at every opportunity, while our leaders fear to challenge, to offend, to speak out in a strong or angry voice that might get media attention. Why have we not blanketed Russian-speaking areas with Voice of America counters to these lies, internet pages designed to defuse them, email chains attacking them etc.? We have so badly lost this message war by not showing up that are this point, if NATO did invite Ukraine to join, we'd lose nothing on the PR side!
I guess we should not be surprised that the same leaders who have done nothing to stop Assad's mass slaughter, backed by Putin, would do nothing to stop Putin either. Here are five steps that the Winston Churchill-style leaders we now so badly need could take to stop the rise of a new single-party ruled empire, a KGB dictatorship combined with ultranationalist ethnic extremism, before it morphs into an even worse monster than it already is.
1. Draw up plans to provide dramatic increases in natural gas from the United States and other free-world sources to Europe: a 5-year plan to reduce European purchases of natural gas and oil from Russia to zero. Make it clear that this plan will be implemented on schedule unless Putin withdraws both from eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
2. Renew Radio-Free Russia and Voice of America to fight the media war against Putin's propaganda by email, website, Twitter, cell phone apps, speeches at any event where Putin is present, and perhaps even some television broadcasts directly to the Russian people laying out the true history. We must put high priority on countering Putin's efforts to brainwash the Russian people, and reassure Russians that we are not aiming for their demise -- that Americans and Europeans desire a stable, democratic, and rights-respecting Russia as a friend and trading partner, that the last thing we want is a new cold war.
3. Offer Ukraine a fast-track into NATO membership, and make clear that NATO we will now reach out to all the former Soviet republics across southern Asia. Again, this plan will be implemented unless Putin returns control of eastern Ukraine and Crimea to the Kiev government, perhaps with the help of a UN force, for an interim period until regional autonomy arrangements can be negotiated without a gun to the head. (Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Ukraine's recent history is that, after the revolution in early spring 2014 that ousted Putin's puppet Yanakovich, eastern regions of Ukraine could have negotiated regional autonomy, perhaps even with plebiscites to give them legitimacy. Thus Putin's proxy war was entirely unnecessary and served the interests of no Russian-leaning Ukrainians; it simply caused thousands of death and mass destruction. Putin's successful bid to promote the small minority of ultra-Russo-fundamentalists who wanted all-out war with Kiev have made such a peaceful process impossible. Regional autonomy cannot be granted under present conditions, as the Minsk deal effectively does, without simply rewarding such aggression).
4. Go to the leaders of Brazil and India and make the case that they should stand with other democracies around the world for basic rights and international law, and expanding trade relations among nations respecting these ideals. In other words, they should leave the emerging BRIC alliance and stand with the community of democratic nations.
5. As an alternative to the BRICS, and as a potential successor to NATO, put forward a proposal for a league of democracies spanning all inhabited continents. Such a league could also in time function as a successor to the Security Council. It could act in cases like Syria without given the Kremlin and Beijing the power to veto the united voice of the world's free peoples.
These are the kind of actions that would
hit core concerns in Putin's long-term strategy to advance
Russian power while reducing the influence of democratic
ideals and human rights principles as bedrocks of
international law. And they would advance the cause of human
progress in the 21st century much better than the current discoordinated relations between
leading democracies and G8 meetings. They show that in fact,
Putin's aggression offers a real opportunity to break some of
the webs of illusion he has been spinning. If he wants to
fight a new war, we will have to meet his challenge or lose by
default. We can no longer ignore the existential threat that
Putin's long-term strategy poses. Steps of the kind proposed
here show how we can meet his challenge and win. They are the
sort of measures that Churchill would organize, were he here