Ukraine’s Crunch Time

It’s crunch time in Ukraine’s defense of its sovereign lands from a vicious assault by Russia.

If ever there were a case for a united defense of an ally, Ukraine’s valiant fight against the criminal Russian aggressors is it. Russian troops have committed the most horrendous crimes imaginable, made irrefutable by the discovery of mass graves in the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, torture chambers, systematic rapes, abductions of children and continuous, intentional bombing of residential buildings all over the country.

Ukraine prime minister Denys Shmyhal and Poland prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki as Poland delivers Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

Ukraine is about to launch a counteroffensive with the help of advanced weaponry from the United States and European NATO nations. American Abrams tanks and European Leopard tanks will be brought to bear by fall as Ukraine pushes to win back territories usurped in the Russian invasions of the Crimean and Donetsk regions.

I have done a lot of reading on the multiple facets of this war (It is an outright war, contrary to Russia’s spinning it as a local conflict). The most insightful statement has come from Mateusz Morawiecki, prime minister of Poland, after the first year of combat in an article for Newsweek. He said, “Ukraine is fighting not only for its own sovereignty, but for the security of the entire continent.” He speaks for all Poles who know better than anyone on earth the history of the devastation deranged dictators have inflicted on their neighbors.

With blinding clarity, Morawiecki has written five lessons that Americans, including the dovish right wing of the Republican Party, need to understand about Vladimir Putin in his demented quest for a rebirth of the Russian empire.

Lesson 1: This invasion is not just about Ukraine. “This not a local conflict. Russia wants to set Europe ablaze. Its aim is to destabilize the entire global economic order,” he stated.

Lesson 2: Russia has fueled the global economic crisis. “The war in Ukraine is only one front in the battle for the future of Europe. Russia is also attacking our civilization in the areas of cyberspace, information and the economy.”

He labeled Putin’s use of energy cut-offs of oil and gas as “blackmail” to convince European countries to stay away from the war in Ukraine. Higher energy prices triggered the inflation and economic slowdown across the globe. “We are all paying dearly for the Kremlin’s decisions.”

Lesson 3: Morawiecki said, “One cannot normalize relations with a criminal regime.” Russia has broken almost every agreement that he has signed, including a security promise after Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in 1994.

The Polish prime minister has called for energy independence for Europe, what he calls “de-Putinization” to break off relations with the Russian dictatorship.

Lesson 4: “Solidarity is stronger than fear.” Europe is far more united since the invasion than ever before.

Indeed, it can be argued that Putin has already lost the war in one strategic dimension. Finland, with an 832-mile border with Russia, has joined NATO, and Sweden is following course.

(I did my graduate work in political science and economics at the University of Stockholm, and I never thought I would ever see the day when Sweden would reverse its historic bedrock policy of neutrality in any war.) The hardened strategies of those two pivotal Nordic neighbors on Russia’s western border is a mighty blow to Putin’s dreams of empire.

The NATO unity against Russia’s ill-begotten invasion has been made very real by NATO’s recent introduction of modern tanks, American air defense systems and previously the HIMARs pinpoint artillery systems.

Always remember that in the big picture Ukraine is defending, not offending.

Lesson 5: Rebuild Ukraine and strengthen Europe. Morawiecki wrote, “Europe faces two possible futures. Either Ukraine wins and there is peace on the continent, or the winner is Russia and Putin’s imperialism is free to expand. If Ukraine is to come out victorious, we need to start thinking about a paradigm shift in European politics. The idea of a community of security and peace is the only possible development model.”

The lesson for the United States from the Polish prime minister is that we must not flinch as the Ukrainian war approaches decisive battles. We have made a major investment in de-railing Putin’s ambitions and existential threats  – about 15% of one year’s U.S. defense budget. As with our increased supply of armaments and munitions, it’s pivotal that we continue to win the table-stakes game with President Putin. As one veteran told me, “We must give Ukraine everything it needs to defend itself!”

In the end, mobilized economies win major wars, and the combined economies of North American and European NATO allies dwarf Russia’s economy that has been impaired by the war and NATO’s increasing sanctions.

John Torinus ~ Captain, USMC Artillery, Retired

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