When Russia launched its full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin gambled on the West flinching first and would decrease its crucial support to Ukraine. This would considerably increase Russia’s chances to overcome Ukraine and then proceed to recreate the Soviet Union whose break-up, according to President Vladimir Putin, was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”.

Has Russia’s gamble paid off?

So far, it has not because of the remarkable resilience of the Armed Forces of Ukraine combined with the comprehensive support from the West.

However, according to the Ukraine Support Tracker maintained by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German research institute: “The dynamics of support to Ukraine have slowed. Newly committed aid reached a new low between August and October – an almost 90 percent drop compared to the same period in 2022.”

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Unless this critical trend is reversed quickly, the risk of a global catastrophe will continue to increase at a frightening pace.

Why did Russia attack Ukraine?

In his book titled “Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power,” Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US National Security Adviser and international relations scholar, answered that question with unmistakable clarity: “It cannot be stressed enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire”. 

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The decision was made by Russian-installed local deputies, supposedly following an appeal from dissatisfied Luhansk residents.

Will Russia go further?

It most certainly will since the Kremlin cannot recreate the Soviet Union, which Putin vowed to do, without subjugating former Soviet republics and satellite states. Many of them are now NATO member countries protected by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which commits NATO member countries to consider an armed attack against any of them to be an attack against all of them.

Is this a real possibility?

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It certainly is. On Jan. 10, Reuters reported that during an interview with Argumenti i Fakti, a Russian newspaper, Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of Russia's Security Council and a powerful ally of Putin, plainly revealed the Kremlin’s perception: “The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv - this is a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, and above all the United States and Britain.”

That should not come as a surprise because three days before launching its all-out war against Ukraine, Reuters reported that Putin stated on Feb. 21, 2022: “Let me explain that US strategic planning documents contain the possibility of a so-called preemptive strike against enemy missile systems. And who is the main enemy for the US and NATO? We know that too. It's Russia. In NATO documents, our country is officially and directly declared the main threat to North Atlantic security. And Ukraine will serve as a forward springboard for the strike.”

US President Joe Biden correctly acknowledged, on Dec. 6 that if Ukraine falls, Russia will go further, forcing the US (and all other NATO members) to put “boots on the ground,” in line with the potential, albeit avoidable, stark scenario. “If Putin takes Ukraine, he won’t stop there.  It’s important to see the long run here.  He’s going to keep going.  He’s made that pretty clear. If Putin attacks a NATO Ally - if he keeps going and then he attacks a NATO Ally - well, we’re committed as a NATO member that we’d defend every inch of NATO territory. Then we’ll have something that we don’t seek and that we don’t have today: American troops fighting Russian troops - American troops fighting Russian troops if he moves into other parts of NATO.”

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In a nutshell, President Biden was predicting a Third World War, if Ukraine does not stop Russia now.

What needs to be done?

The stakes are truly very high, time is running out and any continued wavering by NATO member countries, starting with the US, will be seen by Putin as a sign of weakness to be fully exploited.

The US along with all NATO member countries must immediately provide the necessary support that will allow Ukraine to stop Russia’s imperialist plans or face the unenviable prospect of having to put “boots on the ground” to face Russia - in the not-too-distant future.

Eugene Czolij, a lawyer, is President of the NGO “Ukraine-2050,” Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Montreal, and former Ukrainian World Congress President (2008-2018)

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The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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