When the Soviet Union broke up, there were widespread rumors that a deal had been made with the Western world. Mother Russia would not exercise military force against its breakaway satellites, so long as they did not enter the orbit of the Western world. In 1994, the Ukraine gave up 1,800 nuclear weapons in return from promises from the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia that there would be no interference in its internal affairs.
The deal worked for a long time. Then came along Vladimir Putin. Putin rejected the “secret” deal with the West, and has now attempted to reestablish hegemony over the Ukraine and potentially other breakaway Soviet Republics. Putin wants the world to know that he is the boss!
Tyrants abhor a vacuum. When power-hungry men like the leader of Russia and China see weakness, they rush in to fill the gap created by those running the other way.
There would never have been a Russian invasion of the Ukraine had the United States and NATO brought 250,000 troops to eastern Europe. What is going on in the Ukraine today is, in part, a test of the West. The weak sanctions initially imposed by the United States and NATO, along with a lack of troop commitment and parsimonious military aid to the Ukraine is all that Putin needed to realize that he would face little or no opposition.
The fact that the Ukraine is home to 350,000 Jews and a Jewish president intent on establishing democracy and ties with West is for Putin as good a reason as any to invade the Ukraine. The view from Israel, where we are currently visiting, is wary. The rest of the world is waiting and watching to see who is going to emerge as the High Priest of the new world order. Will it be the West or will it be Russia and the Chinese? Right now, the balance is tipping to those who think democracy is a joke, and not to those who advance the cause of peace and justice.
There should be nothing shocking about this. The West stood by and watched Prussian aggression prior to World War I. The West closed its eyes to Adolf Hitler when he invaded the Sudetenland in violation of the Versailles Treaty. It seems as though democracies never learn their lesson, until war is inevitable.
Vladamir Putin understands world history very well. He knows that the United States created the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. President James Monroe was responding to the fact that most Spanish colonies in the Americas were either independent or would soon be independent. Monroe took the position that the New World and Old World would each have its own sphere of influence. The United States would do what it needed to do to keep European meddlers from plying their unholy trade in the Americas.
After all, if the United States has its zone of influence, why cannot other nations?
There is a difference, however. The United States no longer has the absolute power to control the Americas. Witness Cuba and the United States’ failed invasion during the Kennedy Administration. Venezuela and other nations in the Americas regularly thumb their nose at the United States. Mexico does little or nothing to control the drug trade, which has taken such a disastrous toll in the United States.
In the meantime, the world is no longer a neat set of chess pieces on a simple checkerboard. Where democracy supports the West, and undermines dictators like Putin, that democracy needs to be supported. It might mean military support, sanctions against Russia or troops that make the Russians nervous. However, doing nothing, simply tilts the gameboard in favor of those who hate the West and seek to undermine its viability.
Other nations are watching closely. Should they be friends of Russia or the Western world? Who has the power? Most nations in the world are not free. The entire Arab world is a despotic, tyrannical enterprise, frequently governed by religious extremism. These nations would be happy to cast their lot with the Russians, if it means that they can destroy Israel and remove all Christianity from the Middle East. Likewise, China seeks power and mischief in its zone of influence. We should not forget that Russia supplied Syria with the military might necessary for Syria’s “President” Bashar al-Assad to kill 450,000 of his own people. It is Russia that makes Iran’s nuclear threat very real and Russia continues to support terrorist groups like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah which occupies Southern Syria and Lebanon.
To the extent the United States does not support President Zelensky of the Ukraine with military hardware, and does not ramp up the number of troops in eastern Europe, Russia will do exactly what it needs to in order to fill the vacuum. The rest of the world is watching. Is it simply that we have decided to turn over eastern Europe to Russia or are we participating in a deal made long ago that we would not interfere with Russia’s attempt to reestablish the Soviet Union.
What America and the West most need is leadership.