Staunton, February 16 – If President Obama follows German Chancellor Merkel and doesn’t arm Ukraine, the US president will not only “be playing the role Putin has assigned to him” but he will also open the way toward an effort by Moscow to dominate the Baltic countries while threatening the world with first use of nuclear weapons, according to Janusz Rolicki.
In a commentary for Warsaw’s Gazeta Wyborcza, Rolicki, a senior Polish journalist and commentator, says that the West must stand up to Vladimir Putin both to show him that aggression will not be allowed to stand and that threats of first use of nuclear weapons will not be tolerated.
Putin has openly violated two of the foundations on which the European system has developed over the last half century – a commitment by the powers against any change of international borders by force and a pledge by the nuclear powers not to be the first to use them, Rolicki points out.
These violations are especially at a time when “Putin’s Russia, in formulating a new military doctrine openly introduces in it the principle of the free use of nuclear weapons,” when “flouting international agreements, it has developed a new type of rocket,” and when it carries out exercises and sends out its planes in ways that are consistent with that notion.
“These exercises, like the doctrine itself,” Rolicki argues, arose out of the complexes the roots of which go back to the 1990s. Russia is flexing its muscles in order to frighten the international community,” and “the world must believe in the decisiveness of a Russia which is prepared to use nuclear weapons for the achievement of its political goals.”
That threat has already born fruit, he continues. “Russia is close to cementing its domination in Ukraine,” as the recent Minsk accords show. No agreement had to be signed, of course, just as no acquirement about “the liquidation of Czechoslovakia” had to be signed in Munich in 1938.
If the West does not begin to arm Ukraine, that will mean condemning that state to be “swallowed up by Russia,” but that Western failure will not end there because Putin will read this as an indication that he can use force and the threat of even more force to get his way and he will move against other of Russia’s neighbors, including the Baltic countries.
The US has enormous military superiority “over the entire rest of the world,” but “today’s West is incapable of decisive action.” It isn’t even capable of speaking the truth: “Neither NATO nor the EU has yet recognized Russia as an aggressor,” instead following Moscow’s line and called “the so-called separatists” that.
Because the West is not punishing the aggressor in a serious way, Russians are coming to the conclusion that Moscow propagandists are right and that “everything is permitted to the strong.” Indeed, the West isn’t excluding Russia from sports competitions, scholarly exchanges, or meetings.
Putin and his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov “are not subjected to ostracism but treated as statesmen,” despite the fact that they lie in much the same way as Stalin’s Prosecutor General Andrei Vyshinsky or Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, Rolicki says. Moreover, “the West up to now has not shown that it is not afraid of the aggressor.”
Chancellor Merkel’s declaration that she opposes arming Ukraine is “suicide for the European Union as a political player. The second Minsk meetings “showed that this is a path to nowhere” because Putin had already demonstrated that he has no plans to honor any accords that he doesn’t want to.
The US thus must play the key role because the preservation of an independent Ukrainian state requires that Putin hears that if he sends his forces beyond the demarcation line, “NATO will send its forces to Ukraine and if he crosses the Dnepr, [Russian forces] will encounter Western units there.”
Everyone should remember that “if Western politicians after World War II had acted as Frau Merkel and Mr. Hollande are now, the contemporary world would be one big Soviet Union,” Rolicki says.
What is occurring now, he argues, is “the disgusting capitulation of the West and democracy. If NATO and the EU give way to Putin, a real tragedy awaits us, one which will threaten the security of the world” by allowing him to assume that his hands are free to do what he likes.
“It is too bad,” Rolicki concludes, “that Moscow values and respects only crude force. It is horrible that this country has been able to violate the nuclear taboo without being punished. The nuclear issue has returned to our lives and again become a direct threat to the existence of civilization.”