The Russian dictator has been fully exposed. One friend in Kyiv, an AIDS/HIV services provider who is now a military volunteer, aptly calls him a “political paedophile”. One who seeks to exploit those he sees as weaker through force and lies –be they about non-existent Nazis or NATO aggression.
Except, in Ukraine’s case, his intended victim refuses to be one. It very much remains an independent and democratic state, which Putin had literally set out to extinguish.
Second, the West has rallied around democracy – versus autocracy and brute force – as its reason for being. A moral framework is guiding decisions rather than dressed-up forms of commerce or geopolitics. That framework has translated into unprecedented international military and related aid, including some $200 million from bi-partisan Australia, and sanctions to cripple Russia’s logistical ability to wage war.
Third, the nature of combat has been reinvented by the Ukrainians’ use of mobility, operational autonomy, and technology against a heavily armed and conventional foe. Drones from eBay, mobile phones, Signal messaging, Starlink connectivity, community hotlines, and cyber-intel, and the speed they all enable, are beating multi-million dollar missile systems and heavy tanks, of which Russia has lost more than 1000. President Volodymyr Zelensky, for his part, displays a fresh type of nimble, empathetic and frank leadership. Truth be told, NATO and the European Union need Ukraine as much as Ukraine needs them.
These are significant gains that serve the goal of future global security and prosperity well, but there is a long way to go to finalise the war.
Ultimately, the world – with Ukrainians as its primary proxies – will only be secure and prosperous once there is regime change and demilitarisation in Russia. Without this, Putin and his mafia mates will reorganise and look for other ways to do what benefits them: to destabilise and destroy our way of life.
It’s time for the West – including those potentially waivering among the soft and spoiled political classes of France, Italy and Germany – to pursue the goal of minimising Moscow.
Japan and Germany could only fix their fascism following full defeat. So it must be with a clearly fascist Russia, where some 80 per cent of citizens support the invasion.
It’s not time to consider appeasement, but to assert advantage. We cannot wimp out, or incline toward the inertia of compromise or appeasement, or hold on to the romantic but baseless notion of a “better Russia” emerging. We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed by Putin’s ploys –whether it’s nuclear threats and now a fear campaign about global hunger. Rather, we should accept that we are on the front foot in a war with an amoral enemy that responds only to strength and weakness, and march on to win.
Accordingly, the West must choose between cheap energy and the death of innocent people in Ukraine. At the moment, there is a lack of commitment in some European capitals about banning all Russian energy, which is two-thirds of the Russian budget’s revenue. Oil and gas sales fund Russian weapons used against civilians. Not to accept the short-term cost of energy sovereignty is to accept the infinite cost of death.
It’s that stark for the Europeans. Pay more for your household energy or watch your neighbours be slaughtered in a 21st century genocide.
(Don’t believe me? Ask staff at the destroyed medical centre I saw near Kyiv. A Russian mortar crew and a spotter had “walked in” their fire in 10 metre increments.)
The Europeans, unlike the US, Britain and Australia, have taken 100 days to decide if they’re fully in this fight. That they should very soon. That the international community should reject ceding Ukrainian territory for an alleged peace. What would actually be ceded is civilisation and lives.
Meanwhile, whether it’s the florist opening up, or the IT guy turned soldier designing kamikaze drones, or volunteers feeding and housing millions of internal refugees, the Ukrainians will confidently fight on, on the 101st day of the war against them.