Staunton, February 25 — Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine and the West’s failure to stand up to him shows what can happen when there is “a world-class hooligan without a world-class policeman,” Vadim Zaydman says, a horrific situation that may continue for decades if Putin remains in office and the West remains in the state where it is now.
Everyone is familiar with what happens when there isn’t an effective police force in one or another city: the worst emerge and impose their will on the innocent. But that situation has now spread to the world as a result of Putin’s actions and the unwillingness of the Western powers to force him to live according to the rules.
And they are well aware of something else: what will stop hooliganism when it first appears is relatively small compared to what will be necessary to do the same when the hooligans have gotten away with their crimes and assume that they will be able to continue to act with impunity.
For 15 years, the West has deluded itself about the nature of Putin, hiding behind the question “who is Mr. Putin” as if it were not clear to the unaided eye as a result of his actions in Chechnya, Georgia and now Ukraine what kind of a criminal he is and why stopping him will be ever harder, the commentator says.
Had the West taken a hard line against Putin after he invaded Georgia, he wouldn’t have seized Crimea. Had it imposed the kind of sanctions now in place immediately after his Anschluss of the Ukrainian peninsula, he wouldn’t have expanded his aggression into eastern Ukraine. And tragically, it appears this is not the end.
“Ukraine has been betrayed as at one time Georgia was betrayed,” Zaydman says. Not only has the West refused to live up to its responsibilities under the Budapest Memorandum, but it is apparently going to continue to refuse to provide Ukraine with the arms necessary to effectively defend itself against the hooligan Putin.
“’The conflict in Ukraine does not have a military solution,’ Chancellor Merkel and the other European leaders love to repeat as a mantra.” But they are wrong: Ukraine will have a military solution. It will be Putin’s military solution, one that the West has allowed by its inaction. And it won’t be the last one if nothing changes.
Perhaps because the prospects of that are so horrific, many believe that Putin and/or the West will change. But Putin has been remarkably consistent: he uses force whenever he thinks he can get away with it; and the West by its failure to oppose him with force has allowed him to assume he can get away with ever more of it.
Or such optimists have assumed that things will change because Putin will leave the scene or because the West will come to its senses. But there seems to be little prospect of either. An article in Vedomosti suggests that Putin could be in power for another 30 years, wreaking havoc on the world all that time.
And Vytautas Landsbergis, the Lithuanian leader who knows more than a little about Moscow’s willingness to engage in criminal activities when the West refuses to oppose it, suggests the current situation provides little basis for optimism and much for fear.
Landsbergis says that the West is now “so stupid” that Putin doesn’t have to try to “stupefy it.” Western leaders won’t even challenge Putin’s assertions that Russia isn’t a participant in the war in Ukraine, let alone do something about it. Indeed, one has to ask whether the West has already “capitulated” to him.
The West now is “afraid to respond to Russia, and if that doesn’t change,” the Lithuanian leader points out, “Russia will be able to continue to behave badly in Ukraine and later in other neighboring countries.” Indeed, he says, the West is so afraid that it doesn’t even want to impose more sanctions, let alone do something more effective.
There is a solution, he points out. “How does one overcome fear? By not being afraid. To be afraid is a defeat and a capitulation.” And Landsbergis cites the words of US President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks: “they’ve attacked us and we must respond because if we are afraid to do so, the terrorists will win.”