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‘Demilitarize’ and ‘De-Putinize’ Russia for May 9th

The 9th of May is a special holiday in Russia and other former Soviet countries, celebrating the USSR’s costly victory over Nazi Germany. Yet this year, there must be another goal in mind, one that the West should continue to help Ukraine achieve: the “Demilitarization and De-Putinization” of Russia.

As during the Second World War, Europe (and Western ideals of liberal democratic values, self-determination, and freedom of speech) are under grave danger from a revanchist dictator hellbent on resurrecting the Russian Empire, which collapsed over a century ago. Vladimir Putin doesn’t long for the days of Soviet communism–he merely longs for the borders that the Soviet Union maintained from its imperial predecessor. Western countries have for too long appeased the Kremlin. There were nothing but empty condemnations when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and occupied the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions. Russia has also bombed–en masse-civilian areas in Libya, Syria, and Russia’s Chechnya region. And finally, in 2014, it occupied Ukraine’s Donbas region and Crimean Peninsula. All of these measures were met with limited sanctions and widespread lip service (condemnation). But none of this stopped Putin from horrific human rights abuses and repression within his country, killing dissidents, poisoning political opponents on Western soil, or interfering with elections in Western states. These measures, too, were met with mere condemnations and limited sanctions, but nothing further. Even in the lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, there were mere warnings, without any pre-emptive arming of Ukraine or the activation of sanctions. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Consider the alternative. If Putin is allowed to carve out some kind of victory by occupying southeastern Ukraine, it will destroy the trust and goodwill made by the West & its allies in Ukraine. The country will see us as having used them for proxies to weaken Russia for a bit, while still allowing Moscow to achieve a victory of sorts. The slaughter of their countrymen and destruction of much of Ukraine would be seen as pointless. And there would be no guarantee that Russia wouldn’t launch a further invasion into Ukraine, and indeed, the rest of Europe.

Furthermore, a Russian victory would embolden the worst political forces in the world–including in the West. It would embolden China to attack Taiwan, and other neighbors as well. Russia and China would both continue and ramp up their policies of internal repression. North Korea–which already has tested numerous ballistic missiles since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine–would ramp up dangerous warmongering rhetoric and test more deadly weapons. Iran would do the same, and advance its terrorist campaign throughout the Middle East. In other words, dictatorships worldwide would clamp down on human rights abuses while other regional wars would break out. Nobody would be deterred by the West, or trust in their leadership.

In the West, however, consequences would go far beyond this. A victory for the Kremlin boosts far-right White Supremacists, who view Putin as an illiberal savior of Christian civilization from LGBT people, feminism, and non-White immigrants. This is, of course, despite the fact that Putin has aligned himself with numerous Muslim dictators and Chechnya, while still being a very secular country with little church attendance and a high abortion rate. A victory for the Kremlin would boost far-left Marxists, who blame all of the world’s ills on “NATO imperialism” while being curiously silent about Russian colonialism and domination of numerous other peoples and societies. And it would boost the old generation of “experts” and government officials–wedded to a liberal international order that is now dead–who wish for things to stay the same. These pusillanimous people, such as Putin’s former consultant, Angus Roxburgh, would have the West continue to placate Putin’s aggression–if not the aggression of nearly every other dictatorship on Earth. These people conveniently forget that the untrustworthy Putin isn’t interested currently in negotiations or a ceasefire, has broken numerous treaties, and is a pathological liar.

A new age, and new political order, is beginning to shape–one that began with Moscow’s foolish and immoral invasion. Many people are beginning to tire of the political extremism that has been fanned by Putin’s troll farms throughout liberal democracies. The lies and involvement in much of the GOP regarding Trump’s insurrection on January 6th, 2021, have become exposed. American voters are right to be suspicious of them–just as they are of the radical “wokeness” and pseudo-Marxism of the far-left, which saw Republicans crush the opposition in Virginia’s race for governor. It seems a return to true, liberal democratic values (as before Obama-style/Merkelist “lead from behind,” Trumpism and before pseudo-Marxism) is awaiting the West and its democratic allies. But to get there, the West has got to do all it can to assist Ukraine in demilitarizing and de-Putinizing Russia.

The West needs to shift towards numerous other challenges that are more pressing than Russia’s trolling of the world, acting as a Tasmanian Devil-style spoiler. China’s increasing aggression in the Indo-Pacific, Iran’s march to nuclear weapons and North Korea’s threats to Japan & South Korea are pressing threats that require Western unity and full attention. The best way to get there is to weaken Russia as much as possible. And the best way to accomplish this is to contribute to the destruction of Russia’s conventional military in Ukraine.

A Russian defeat would almost certainly mean that Vladimir Putin would, one way or another, be forced out of power. Hopefully, with engagement from the West, this could lead to a truly democratic and free Russia. But should another unsavory actor replace him, the benefit of this would be the lack of military power that would last for years to come. Indeed, it is possible that, post-war, sanctions could remain on Moscow–and even if not, the economy would be damaged for years to come.

Vladimir Putin has ruined the liberal international order, Westerners’ faith in their governmental systems, Russian society, and indeed, several nation-states. His vision of how the world should be run cannot be allowed to win out. As such, I propose a different kind of May 9th–one that marks the beginning of the end for Russian imperialism in Ukraine, and for the Putinization and ruination of a once great, advanced country. The good news of Western shipments of heavy equipment to Ukraine is making a difference already. True, the Ukrainians are taking heavy losses and seeing mass destruction. But Russia’s advance has largely not come to fruition, in part due to their poor battlefield tactics. Prior to May 9th, it is crucial that the West continue supplying arms and intelligence so that Ukraine can succeed in at least taking back some of the occupied territories. This will deny Putin the ability to declare any kind of “victory” in his speech on May 9th for Victory Day.

About the Author
Dmitri Shufutinsky is a graduate of Arcadia University's Masters program in International Peace & Conflict Resolution. He made aliyah to Kibbutz Erez through Garin Tzabar in 2019. Dmitri is an ardent Zionist and a supporter of indigenous rights, autonomy, solidarity, and sovereignty. He currently lives in Hadera, and is a veteran of the IDF.
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