opinion | In the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, standing up to Putin is our only reliable option

Those who belong to Europe’s “bloodlands”, parts of the continent that suffered at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets in the 20th century.NS In the last century, remember the agreements of 1938 (Munich) and 1945 (Yalta) that traded countries first with Adolf Hitler and then to Joseph Stalin in the hope of satisfying the lusts of these murderous leaders. Instead, that appetite grew with eating. Americans and Western Europeans forget how indelible these memories are among the more than 100 million people who live in Central and Eastern Europe. Repeating these mistakes now, by forcing Ukrainians to make sacrifices in the hope of appeasing Putin, would, in the words of George Santayana, condemn the Ukrainians and the rest of us for restoring the past.

the modern history Filled with examples of how failure to respond adequately to Putin’s aggression only encourages more risky behavior. From the poisoning of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 to the invasion of Georgia in 2008 to recent excesses such as the daylight killings of opponents in Berlin and the bombing of a Czech arms depot, the West has done little to respond to Russia’s challenges.

Even after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the sanctions imposed by the West had an initial effect but were not seriously tightened. Time and time again Putin has come to the conclusion that he can get away with and possibly be rewarded — or even threatened.

The response should not be to pressure the victim of this aggression to make concessions by implementing the appalling and discredited Minsk Agreement, which – as Sharap acknowledges – Ukraine signed under enormous pressure. Specifically, Charap suggests that the United States push Ukraine to move toward granting special status and more autonomy to the Russian-occupied region. Meanwhile, Russia has not achieved anything its obligations under Minskwhich calls, in particular, for “the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and military equipment as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine”. A cease-fire and a Russian withdrawal are prerequisites before moving on other terms for Minsk, but that is difficult when the Kremlin denies it has any troops occupying Ukrainian territory.

Demanding Ukraine fulfill its obligations under Minsk without first demanding anything from Russia is immoral and strategically unwise. In addition to encouraging Putin, pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make concessions would kill him politically — itself a Kremlin goal — and further tarnish America’s reputation as a partner to the needy.

The pressure on Ukraine may also damage the Euro-Atlantic architecture that has to some extent maintained peace on the continent for the past seven decades or more. Various international agreements – the UN Charter (1945), the Helsinki Final Act (1975) and the Paris Charter (1990) – forbid the use of force to change borders, but that is exactly what Putin did when he illegally annexed and then invaded Crimea. Donbass region of Ukraine. In addition, other regimes are carefully watching the Western reaction to Putin’s challenge. Observers in Beijing, for example, might conclude that they might get away with taking similar steps against Taiwan.

Finally, Sharap makes the argument that Putin will “rise” and move toward invasion unless Ukraine comes under pressure from Moscow — and Washington. While a major Russian push into Ukraine looks likely this time around, it is not a foregone conclusion. Putin understands that Ukraine’s military is strong and capable, and that many Russians returning with body bags will be unpopular in a country already reeling from the pandemic and a stagnant economy. What if Putin is cheating again, either to keep the Ukrainians on balance or to secure another summit with Biden?

The idea that concessions would encourage him to back down is a security one that ignores past Russian behavior. Putin will likely encourage greater concessions, continually threaten military moves, demand more Ukrainians and weaken Zelensky—all while, presumably, without crossing the border.

What then, Should the United States and Europe do toward Ukraine? Chapp points out that we have tried every coercive measure against Putin and that these have not worked. In fact, the West has by no means exhausted the options available to put pressure on Russia.

Putin built a menacing military presence on the Ukrainian border last spring, and Biden responded by inviting the Russian leader to a summit. It seems that Putin is eager to hold another summit, According to reports. Meeting on the world stage means a lot to Putin as it elevates his profile and equalizes his relationship with the United States. Biden met Putin in June without any preconditions. This time, he must insist that before the meeting, Russia must withdraw all its forces along the Ukrainian border in a verifiable manner. No withdrawal, no meeting.

If Putin complies and the leaders meet, Biden should make clear that the return of Russian troops to the border will lead to tough new sanctions immediately, rather than waiting to see if they enter Ukrainian territory. These actions will include the expulsion of Russia from the SWIFT banking system, the termination of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, the imposition of sanctions on the primary (and most important for the Russian financial sector) and secondary debt markets, and most importantly, the immediate punishment of Putin himself and those around him.

This last type of punishment is the type most likely to attract Putin’s attention, as it will inflict financial damage on his ill-gotten gains and those of the obedient few who carry out his orders. Confiscation of any assets they have in the West means they can no longer hide money in Western banks, real estate or sports teams. This will help West clean his house, too. Putin’s biggest export is corruption, but if we stop importing and enabling it, he has nowhere to go. Frankly, the United States should do it anyway, regardless of Putin’s actions toward Ukraine — but it has held back so far, largely due to unrealistic hopes of securing cooperation from Russia on other issues.

setback and strength They are the only things Putin understands and respects. Russia backtracked in 2015 after Turkey shot down a Russian military plane that had crossed Turkish territory, showing that it was not afraid to use force against Putin. The West needs to make clear that the costs of reconquest will be punitive and immediate. The United Kingdom sent dozens of military instructors to assist the Ukrainian forces. The United States and other NATO allies should do the same, creating a kind of tripwire as Putin knows an attack on Ukraine could entangle NATO personnel on the ground and trigger a major backlash.

The United States should provide additional military assistance to Ukraine, including anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles as well as drones, radar and real-time intelligence. That would still pale in comparison to the 100,000 Russian soldiers and armor currently surrounding Ukraine. But it is the most reliable way to get Putin to back down, because he does not want to risk a war with NATO. In the meantime, the United States should strengthen its military presence in the neighboring countries that are members of NATO.

Nobody wants a military conflict with Russia, and the Ukrainians are not asking American soldiers to fight their war for them. But we should not sacrifice our principles, and the sovereignty of a partner state, in the vain quest to prevent conflict. The goal is to prevent another Russian invasion while preparing to use targeted economic, military, and diplomatic measures other than all-out conflict if Putin is not duped. We must stand with Ukraine and stand up to Putin. Easier said than done, sure, but it’s much better than carrying out the aggressor’s bid.

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