Do the West’s leaders not realise that Yalta-2 is even now being written? If they do, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. If they don’t, they are fools. Either way, they should be doing something more effective than responding to a brutal invasion with sanctions.
It’s Yalta all over again. Remember Yalta? That was the conference at a Crimean resort in 1945 when the US president and the British prime minister sat down and negotiated with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, leaving Eastern Europe at his mercy. The Soviet sphere of influence, where I was born with no option to refuse.
Right now, a new division of Europe and the right to spheres of influence are being shaped by Western leaders’ response, or lack thereof, to Vladimir Putin’s outright invasion of Ukraine. On the one side it’s brutal force, on the other it’s words and sanctions.
As in 1945, the West is deciding to let Russia impose the regime it wants on people that don’t want it and keep those people within its sphere of influence. The discourse oscillates around a false dilemma: we say we are not defending Ukraine because it is not a member of NATO, but the real reason – the reason the NATO allies refuse to face – is that they are afraid to challenge Putin in Ukraine, preferring to look on impassively. At the same time, the new Stalin takes over the country. Or the new Hitler dismembers it. A man of many faces, is Vladimir…
But this is just weak-kneed hypocrisy. For a start, Ukraine is not a member of NATO because we did not want to accept it. And, even outside NATO, there is the UN Charter – and specifically, Article 51 thereof – which entitles Ukraine to call for military assistance if attacked. And the country is fighting for its right to exist, while the West engages in soul-searching and sanctions-rattling.
Kyiv challenges the West’s sanctions hypocrisy by directly appealing for help from EU and NATO countries. Money and sanctions are no substitute for military hardware and troops.
If consensus with NATO is elusive and bilateral agreements can’t be reached within NATO, then action must be taken without NATO. Europeans should bear in mind that defending Europe with Ukraine as an ally would be a lot more effective than defending Europe with Ukraine out of the reckoning because it’s occupied. Henceforth, the road must be open for a “coalition of the willing” to oppose Mr Putin. The sort of coalition that was mustered in the case of Iraq or of Kosovo.
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Sanctions will not achieve anything. They are too little – and way too late. Sanctions will affect Russian citizens and some Russian companies. But they are quite impotent to address the real threat now facing Ukraine.
Now, I don’t know what analyses, if any, substantiate US president Joe Biden’s decisions. Not my rather frequent and consistent online analyses, that’s for sure! All I can do is state what seems to me to be quite obvious and hope he’s listening.
The occupation of Ukraine would herald a new order and a new Cold War, just as Mr Putin wants. And the cost that we would incur as a consequence by, effectively, doing nothing, would vastly outweigh the price of doing something effective right now and ending Russia’s Ukraine invasion.
For Mr Putin is writing the new Yalta agreement, which the West looks set to sign, just as it reconciled itself to the faits accomplis he presented us with in the cases of Crimea, Georgia and Transnistria.
So I urge the Government of Ukraine to call for military assistance from the West in individual appeals to each country. Europe must fight its battle in Ukraine, defending it.
And I urge Europe to have a sense of history. Because we’re not just talking Yalta. We’re talking Munich: remaining idle resurrects the ghost of 1938 and the betrayal of Czechoslovakia by Neville Chamberlain – who thought he was achieving “peace for our time” by appeasing Adolf Hitler, but in fact got World War II within a year just the same.
So what should be done? Well, an ultimatum by the West to Putin to hold his horses and return to the negotiation table would be a good start. It would, in fact, have a good chance of triggering action, inspiring the Ukrainians and galvanising the Russian anti-war moment. If, that is, it were the right sort of ultimatum, a credible ultimatum. To that end, military aid and troops should be waiting at the NATO/Ukrainian border, ready to cross it and challenge Russian troops. Keeping Ukraine alive is the only way to keep Ukraine whole and independent.
I am not naive to think that Messeirs Biden, Johnson or Macron will immediately come to Zelensky’s rescue on a bilateral basis. But by refusing, at least they will have to pay a personal political price for their pusillanimity and expose the hypocrisy in their current stance.
Imagine Ukraine occupied by Vladimir Putin, just for a moment. Who is idiotic enough to trust that he will stop at that? On the contrary, he will legitimise force and shape a ‘new order’ based on its use, and global security will become notional. The next thing will be that China will invade Taiwan. And very soon the world will be quite different.
Only by setting an example and punishing Putin can we hope to return to a nice, mundane, boring and peaceful life.
So it’s time for action. Real action that will help Ukraine survive – and help protesting Russians, who are showing more courage at present than Western leaders, even under repression. And it’s definitely not time for sanctions that will have no effect on Mr Putin. He has enough black caviar and champagne stockpiled in the Kremlin not to have to bother about sanctions. He understands only power and force.
Addressing Neville Chamberlain upon his return from the Munich Conference in 1938, the future war leader Winston Churchill uttered these prophetic words “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”
So, Mr Biden and NATO leaders, it’s time to decide whether you are Chamberlains or Churchills. I’d say you should act now – and stop the new Hitler.
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