Russia’s Cold War with Ukraine is about to heat up

The Russo-Ukrainian war is in the news again. Not satisfied with it annexation of Crimea – When will an aggressive imperialist state settle for Crimea once it has it? – Russia has accumulated a force of aggression on the border of Ukraine, and was busy mobilizing enough reserves to provide an occupation force.

Ordinary experts can hear the voices of experts discussing the geopolitical impact of construction, tea leaf sifting, and undisclosed sources to explain why it’s just an exercise battle (official Russian explanation), or how Putin and Russia were provoked by NATO’s aggressive expansion to the west, and why the Budapest Memorandum is not legally binding, or Ukraine has always been Russian anyway, so why don’t they just summarize it and something about spheres of influence.

The effect — perhaps the purpose — of all this cynical and exhausting discussion is Americans and others are disappointingly interested in this topicand said, “Just let it be.”

This would be a mistake, especially for observers who feel a certain intuitive connection with a group of people who are and have repeatedly fought for their freedom and independence from imperial lords. (Polish, Austro-Hungarian, Lithuanian, Ottoman, Russian, Nazi). Germany and the Soviet Union) from the 17th century. That would also be a terrible mistake in timing; The lies that justify the US invasion of Iraq and occupation of Afghanistan are based on an eloquent truth – that the cause of freedom lovers has always been the cause of Europe and America. If one believes that there is one good thing worth defending with one’s army in the world as an American, it must be a good thing.

And the good thing is that’s the basic truth in Ukraine.

“Either Russia is conducting an exercise designed to simulate an invasion of Ukraine or it is preparing to invade Ukraine and neither of these options feels particularly reassuring.

When I left Ukraine at the end of 2017, after living there continuously since the spring of 2015, I wanted to put the headache of being concerned with a paradox I could not control behind. There, it was perfectly normal to know that Russia could strike at any moment. Since 2014, when (for them) the unthinkable happened, every Russian statement and training exercise has been a stark reminder of what happens when you let your guard down. Having lived in Kyiv from 2016-17, the volume of threats involving some combination of invasion, assassination, destabilization, and cyber hacking is enough to keep me coming back weekly.

The Ukrainians seem to have gotten used to the Russian drumming. Uncomfortable with it — how can one be comfortable when their powerful and hostile neighbor makes threats in a town without the police? —But got used to it. It’s not something the most civilized people can bear unless they’ve grown up with it, just as people living by the ocean or in the mountains treat wildlife like a nuisance to be respected. More important is the tragedy that awaits beneath every wave or behind every tree.

Russia is not a bear or a shark, it is a country led by people who act according to some obvious logic. In this case, either Russia is conducting an exercise designed to simulate an invasion of Ukraine, or it is preparing to invade Ukraine, and neither of them feel particularly reassured. . The military only trains to prepare for future operations – otherwise, why waste money, time, and energy that could be effectively invested elsewhere? Even in the best case, Ukraine cannot rejoice.

The urge to think of Ukraine and Russia in abstract terms is meaningless. All the words and thoughts put into understanding movements, postures, and actions can shed light on a fundamental truth, which is that if Russia plans to conquer it, it will cause disproportionate harm. often on a scale not seen in Europe since 1945.

This summer’s gruesome spectacle, with crowds of Afghans scrambling to get away from Taliban-dominated news and headlines, will seem plain, ordinary, compared to what’s going to happen in Ukraine. and Europe. Dozens, if not hundreds of thousands of people will die as the Ukrainian army struggles to hold onto its territory, hoping for no reinforcements, and millions of desperate survivors will flee west. . If many people now assume that the invasion occurred during the winter, the loss of life and health to innocent civilians will be multiplied by the extreme cold, to say nothing of it will help. promote the ongoing pandemic.

In eastern Ukraine, I met a handful of people who stayed when war hit their land. Older people, mostly women, can barely buy enough coal or firewood to heat their homes with their meager monthly pensions. Elderly people sleep in the kitchen to keep warm Single mothers find ways to make ends meet, stay with relatives or stay with soldiers and officers who rotate to the front, doing whatever they can to earn money. food on the table. Couples who have moved to what was once a quiet suburb to pursue the rest of their lives in peaceful retirement and obstinate but understandable decide they’ve had enough uprooted.

Some of the elders survived the Second World War, and have memories of the Germans and later the Red Army flooding the area like waves that pile up on the beach in a storm. Things didn’t get much better when I was there on trips doing reports for the Center for Civil Conflict, or afterward, following up on individual stories myself. The explosion of heavy artillery and the hum of machine guns was something I couldn’t get used to as a civilian, even though it was a regular part of my life as a soldier. in the US military.

Why do we allow war? When we have the power to stop it, shouldn’t we do whatever is necessary to say that “war will not come to this country,” as Gandalf tells Balrog, “You will not pass”? The gamble we made at the end of the war in Afghanistan was extraordinary; extraordinary because it was done on such a flawed basis that no one knew the weakness of the government until its president was on a plane to Doha with pockets full of cash under each arm, and even more often because the Taliban seem to have (against all expectations). wholesale bloodshed and terrifying revenge killings.

Perhaps much or much of the Taliban’s much-anticipated thirst for revenge has been redirected to urgent and committed managerial work, but in Ukraine the opportunity for Russian evil will be the legion. It will take great violence to dislodge the Ukrainian army from their positions in the east of the country, which I have seen; it would require the kind of bombing and heavy artillery that tore through the landscape and not discriminating between pensioners and soldiers. It will take much longer to dislodge veterans and volunteer paratroopers from Ukrainian cities. This isn’t hypothetical – that’s how Russia and Ukraine have been fighting each other since 2014.

An invasion of Ukraine would mean untold death and suffering. For what? So can Russia “rebuild the Soviet Union?” Or bring back its Empire? Is this worthy of a skull – the skull of a child or an old woman – let alone a pyramid of them? In the US, during the time I ran to Iraq, my friends and I vehemently protested against the US entering the war for fake reasons. It is clear to us, as recent college graduates, that the Bush Administration has completely failed to make a convincing case for the war against Iraq. What is clear to me now is the idea that every reasonable path must be pursued in order to avoid war and bloodshed.

Perhaps we have forgotten that there is no good reason to invade another country. The Americans took the better part of two decades to withdraw most of their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. At this precarious time when the world seems to be on the verge of a serious war in Europe, wise and foresight leadership can capitalize on the lessons of last year, of decades ago and avert an avoidable disaster.

Inaction – our own, that of the Afghan government – will cause that country to be destroyed. There is still a chance to avert a similar disaster in Ukraine, and we should use our strength to prevent it. Russia’s Cold War with Ukraine is about to heat up


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