Angela Merkel at the Munich Security Conference, repeating her mantra that there is “no military solution” for the crisis in Ukraine: “I grew up in East Germany, I have seen the Wall,” she said. “The Americans did not intervene in the Wall, but in the end we won.”
That statement, while true, is nevertheless misleading. Had the US during the Cold War adopted the same pusillanimous attitude towards defending Germany against Soviet aggression that Germany now has about protecting Ukraine against Russian aggression, the boundaries of the Russian Federation would likely now extend from Vladivostok to Lisbon. Will, unity and determination, coupled with adequate military strength, is what deterred the Soviets for four decades.
The more the West insists there is no military solution in Ukraine, the more incentivized Putin is to continue with HIS (thus-far successful) military solution in Ukraine.
The truth is: Vladimir Putin cannot afford an all-out invasion of Ukraine. His economy is on the rocks, the population that allegedly adores him back home does NOT support war in Ukraine, and his military – while impressive compared to Ukraine’s – has not uniformly benefited from the infusion of funds and reforms initiated after their poor showing in Georgia in 2008. Numbers of tanks and artillery tubes do not tell the whole story of a military’s capabilities.
Selective provision of modern defensive weaponry would make a huge difference on the battlefield in Donbas: It would be enough to blunt the offensive by Putin’s proxy forces, mercenaries, and “vacationing’ soldiers. And that would be the beginning of the end for Tsar Vladimir – and he knows it. Putin cannot afford to fail in Ukraine. If he fails, his grasp on power is threatened. And let’s be honest here: Remaining in power is all that really matters to him.
This fear in the Kremlin explains his regime’s Herculean efforts to convince the West there would be an expansion of the conflict in Ukraine if Kyiv receives needed weapons.
Allowing Putin to create a festering sore in Donbas, to create yet another Russian mafia cesspool of corruption and dysfunction, would ensure that Ukraine remains a political and economic basket case for decades. That is PRECISELY what Putin wants, and that appears to be what Merkel, Hollande and the rest of Europe seems prepared to permit.
Putin’s worst nightmare is a economically developed, politically vibrant, corruption-free Ukraine on his borders – serving as a beacon to Russian people who will be increasingly drawn to that model over his own regime’s offerings of repression, propaganda, criminality, and fear.
Tell anyone who will listen – and even those who won’t: The U.S. must help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. This is the moment of truth for Ukraine – and for us.