The Ukrainian pursuit of sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression has been accompanied by a profound gratitude for the unwavering support from the United States. Presently, Ukraine treads the path towards liberation from Russia’s historical hegemony, much like America’s journey away from the British Crown in the 18th century. Undoubtedly, Ukraine too shall navigate its course towards full independence, driven by fate and the resolve of those willing to safeguard their nation and kin.
However, it is imperative not to perceive this war merely as regional conflict, akin to the USSR’s incursion into Afghanistan. To relegate it to such would be a misjudgment analogous to regarding Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 or the Battle of the Atlantic as local incidents. The Russo-Ukrainian war that unfolded in 2014 has always been global.
The disproportionate economic capacities of the Soviet Union and Russia should not be misleading. The ambitions of the “Russian Empire” to resurrect Cold War-era aspirations were candidly expressed in Vladimir Putin’s ultimatums of December 2021. The West committed a critical oversight by responding as leniently as it did, reminiscent of its approach to Putin’s Munich speech in 2007. That lack of any resolute Western response to the emerging Kremlin threats, such as Russia’s invasion of Georgia and subsequently of Ukraine, proved to be a pivotal error.
Russia capitalizes on weakness
Hopes of curbing Russian aggression through limited aid to Ukraine and diplomatic solutions are destined for futility. Betting on Russia’s “non-victory” instead of its defeat is seen by the Kremlin as a manifestation of weakness. Regrettably, such a stance escalates tensions rather than reducing them.
The Western world finds itself making a parallel mistake – as it did in its attempt to appease Adolf Hitler, the fascist dictator, through diplomacy. Russia will escalate its confrontation as long as Western democracies permit. The events of the past 15 years stand as a stark testament to this reality.
The battle of democratic nations against Russian totalitarianism extends beyond Europe’s borders, into the heart of Ukraine and across continents like Asia and Africa. Ignoring these facts will not make the aggression and threat disappear; they will merely exploit the opportunities arising from the world’s unpreparedness for resistance.
Signs of hybrid warfare have reached the shores of Western Europe, gripping France and Germany. Russia, in the shadows of the “Soviet Empire’s” legacy, lends support to radical political parties, seeking to destabilize the situation and propel Moscow-friendly politicians to power. This transcends even the interference witnessed during the 2016 US presidential elections. If Russia triumphs, the repercussions for Western democracies will be far more devastating.
Cold Civil War: Russia’s blueprint for the West’s demise
As of today, the Russian blueprint for political polarization is already beginning to materialize within these nations, pointing towards a potential Cold Civil War in the future. In the era of the Soviet Union, this role was played by various communist parties, but now it is the domain of a range of ultra-right and ultra-left political movements.
The funding for these endeavors will persist as long as the West’s sanctions remain too lenient. The Cold Civil War threatens not only existing political elites, who are hesitant to defend themselves, but also the economic stability of France and Germany. We have seen this scenario before. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a similar hybrid warfare campaign unfolded.
In Africa and Asia, Russia is already engaged in hostilities with Western democratic countries. Its tactics range from utilizing regular armies to deploying mercenaries from the Wagner Group. Since 2014, targeted strikes have been made against nations strategically significant within their regions due to their geographical locations. Syria, in the Near East, and the Central African Republic, Mali, and now Niger, in Africa, have all been impacted. Russia is deliberately pushing Western allies out of these regions, expanding its sphere of influence and attempting to form a new network of allies. These actions mirror Soviet methods, which involved coups, regional wars, and terrorism.
This trajectory, akin to that of the USSR from 1960 to1980. It led to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, followed by an escalation in 1983. Today, Moscow tests the “resolve” of NATO countries using a hypothetical slogan, “Is Klaipeda [a small city in Lithuania] worth World War III?” The absence of a response to provocations out of fear of triggering the Kremlin’s direct aggression fuels the Apocalypse scenario.
It is now evident that attempts to “appease” Putin result in the geographical expansion of Russia’s military actions, from direct interventions to propaganda offensives. Additionally, the war in Ukraine has passed a point of no return. The hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian casualties have left indelible scars on society, making a return to the status quo of Feb. 23, 2022 impossible.
How the West must respond
Most importantly, Western democracies striving to avoid direct confrontation with Russia are already at war with the Kremlin, although not yet fully aware of it. The longer they ignore this reality, the higher the price of their oversight will be. History has shown that policies of appeasement yield no success.
On the other hand, a mere 3 percent of the US military budget is sufficient to deter the Kremlin in Ukraine and reduce its military capabilities.
Realizing the fact that they are directly involved in a war with dictatorial Russia requires prompt reevaluation on the part of Washington, London, Berlin, and Paris. The “non-involvement” concept must shift towards a concept of “war to defend democracies against unprovoked aggression,” utilizing Ukraine as a key frontline in the Western world.
Specifically, the following steps are necessary:
- A shared understanding among the US and allies of the war’s goals and a general strategy for victory.
- Direct synchronization of US military branches and partners with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, effectively integrating them into the armies of Western democratic nations.
- Direct support for opposition forces in Russia, regardless of their orientation or ideology.
- Mechanisms for involving US and partner businesses in Ukraine’s economy under exclusive terms.
- Responsive actions by the US and allied domestic security agencies against Russia’s hybrid aggression and attacks on the democratic institutions of Western states.
- A program utilizing the Armed Forces of Ukraine to curtail Russia’s military activities in African and Asian countries.
- Involving Ukrainian political forces in cooperation with the US and partner democratic institutions.
This discussion should be initiated now through closed-door deliberations in committees, analytical centers, and political parties of the US, UK, and EU, involving Ukrainian politicians and high-ranking officials. Only together can we ultimately defeat the Kremlin monster. After all, fate and God favor the bold and bring down cowards.
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
Oleg Dunda is Member of the Parliament of Ukraine
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