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Can the Ukrainians Trust the West?

The Russian war machine has now begun to bombard Western Ukraine, dangerously close to the Polish border, while in Mariupol residents are forced to drain radiators for water since all main services have been cut by the invaders. The West continues to mouth words of encouragement to the besieged, promising refugees sanctuary and the Ukrainian army military hardware. Military strategists are doubtful the Ukraine will be able to hold out for much longer, perhaps a week at the most; but they may have underestimated the tenacity of a proud people who will fight on even if Kyiv falls, having been devastated by Russian troops, reminding us just how much Putin has in common with other autocratic rulers: people, property, and historical monuments count for nothing in the minds of those determined to force their will on others. 

The West is already feeling the squeeze resulting from Russia cutting gas and oil supplies; the price of crude oil has rocketed and will continue to rise; but now there is another worrying development where Ukrainian grain supplies may be seriously disrupted, impacting on the Third World, in particular. It is estimated the Ukraine produces 30% of the world’s grain, and much of it goes to the poorest countries. Prices have already begun to rise making the likelihood of mass starvation a real possibility. The USA may help alleviate this potential humanitarian disaster but will certainly not be capable of making up the shortfall. 

Kyiv, a city with wonderful architecture and a history much longer than Moscow, is facing the might of a Russian army and airforce that has little regard for life or culture. The Russian blitzkrieg has not proved as effective as the Nazi offensive against Eastern Europe, but that does not diminish the suffering of Ukraine’s citizens. The question for President Biden, the EU and NATO is: ‘What happens when the Ukraine is subdued?’ The Russians will be forced to leave a substantial number of troops in the Ukraine to hold on to their ill-gotten gains; but will the West accept the Russian conquest as a fait accompli, and wish, speedily, to normalize relations with Russia? And what if the Russian Bear looks greedily at Moldova? Does the West shrug its shoulders and accept it is better to not get involved? Such a tactic will, undoubtedly, embolden Putin, knowing the West has no stomach for confrontation: echos of Nazi expansion and the failed policy of Appeasement.

Eyes are now firmly fixed on the west of Ukraine. How far will the Russians come to challenging the integrity of Polish sovereignty, and would NATO act if the Poles were attacked? To do nothing is not an option! NATO must act in defense of its member states; there can be no equivocation. One hopes such a scenario will never happen and intelligent, far-sighted Russians will remove Putin before he inflicts untold damage on his people. 

About the Author
Peter John Beyfus is an historian, published author, poet, and a person who prides himself on “thinking outside the box”. I have written many essays on Jewish themes, published in various journals, including ‘Wessex Jewish News’ and ‘Westminster Quarterly’, the magazine of Westminster Synagogue, London.
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