Orysya Bila, Ruud Meij
Today the G7 assembles on the historical ground of Schloss Elmau, a hundred miles or so south of Munich. Of course, our thoughts go back to September 30, 1938. Will this also be a historical meeting? We are a bit worried about it. You won’t blame us for that as we read “G7 face battle for unity as costs of Ukraine war mounts”.
The simple answer to this ‘battle of unity’ is that the costs of war mount because of Western hesitations, indecisiveness, and capitulation for Putin’s nuclear blackmail. A major gamechanger was the Ukrainian victory in the battle of Kyiv. It’s an old adagio that winning a battle is very different from winning a war. Putin knows this lesson all too well. The West was surprised by the Ukrainian courage, resilience, and patriotism. They shouldn’t if they had paid more attention to the Ukrainian independence vote in 1991, the Orange Revolution in 2004 and Maidan in 2013-14.
After the victory of Kyiv some Western leaders hesitated. What if Ukraine will win the war? Is there a way out so that we can stay in our comfort zone? Shouldn’t we offer Putin a face-saving way out? Let’s wait a bit by arming Ukraine with heavy weapons. After all he threatens with his nuclear power…
But Putin and his clique learned another lesson. The way to defeat Ukraine is conventional mass destruction, as the relentless bombing of Mariupol, Severodonetsk and today again Kyiv prove. They don’t care about victims, nor civilians, or even their own soldiers. They don’t care about war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. And do you know why? Because they know they can carry on with mass murder with impunity.
Putin not only knows that the West and NATO won’t intervene directly in Ukraine which is OK. But he also counts the West won’t supply heavy weapons on a mass scale. The weapons which can help defeating Russia. Even today Putin is playing this card by stationing potentially nuclear missiles in Belarus. And Putin is playing the nuclear blackmail card with success, considering the Western procrastination on arming Ukraine with the weapons that would help to win the war, instead of not losing it. However, giving in to Putin’s blackmail means capitulating for the Russian Federation, giving way for conventional mass destruction, losing the war in Ukraine, and giving up Ukraine. It will be a victory for all autocratic, dictatorial, pseudo-, or real totalitarian regimes, which are today gaining ground in the world.
From 1945 till 1989 the West had an answer to this nuclear blackmail. That was the Cold War and the strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction. A nuclear attack could count on massive retaliation. This balance of deterrence was not a pleasant world to live in, to put it mildly. But we lived with it then, and we must learn to live with it again: a nuclear bomb on Kyiv will be retaliated by a nuclear bomb on St. Petersburg. Period. It was a scary time, but it was effective, it lifts impunity and in the end it broke the Soviet totalitarianism.
Resisting Putin’s blackmail helps to overcome hesitations and indecisiveness of the West. It means opening up the opportunity to provide Ukraine with heavy long-range weapons on a mass scale by which they can hit Russian troops behind the front lines. It also ends the impunity of conventional mass destruction, committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the genocide.
In the end we have to understand that Putin’s regime is not a ‘normal’ autocratic regime. It is the organized madness of the regime that for 75 years had terror as its fundamental principle, and the Gulag as its core. A nation in which yesterday’s perpetrators of terror were the victims of tomorrow. A nation where no one has been convicted for these ‘unjustified repressions’ (Khrushchev). If terror stays unpunished, when responsibility is not taken, when retribution is not forthcoming, this terror will keep repeating itself as madness, senselessness, and delirium. This re-enacting of terror is what we witness in Ukraine. The hesitation, indecisiveness and capitulating for blackmail by the West means sacrificing Ukraine and the world to terror and madness and betraying its own civilization. That should be unthinkable.
(Thanks to Frans Geraedts)