If you’ve been having trouble believing that Vladimir Putin is an unhinged, authoritarian war criminal, I’d suggest you take a few minutes to check out this report from last week’s “60 Minutes” to learn more about the conditions in Ukraine today. It’s a story about how the people of that country are dealing with Russia’s on-going assault on civilian targets: apartment buildings and schools, power plants and utility infrastructure, and the non-combatants who are suffering as “collateral damage” from attacks that violate global rules on the ethical conduct of war. (Yeah, there are such things; crazy.)
They are heroic. Inspiring. To watch what they have to put up with – conditions they do not deserve, that they suffer as a result of an unprovoked invasion of their sovereign country – made me cry. Made me wonder, what can we do about this?
The “we” in this case is the rest of the world, everybody outside of Putin’s borders. The people who just assumed, one year ago when Russia illegally invaded its neighbor, that the global condemnation of this blatant aggression would lead in short order to a low-key pullback by Russian forces with attendant harrumphing about maintaining what he claims as the historical Russian Empire, and then some international back-and-forthing as this big thing faded into the background…so we could maintain our comfort level about life in general and go on to the next big thing.
(People inside of Putin’s borders, we could use your help, too.)
But that didn’t happen. What I think those of us outside of the professionals in intelligence and diplomacy and history didn’t and maybe still don’t really understand, is that Putin is a criminal (no matter what George W. saw in his soul) and he doesn’t care what the rest of the world thinks or says about how he treats his neighbors. He hasn’t won easily on the battlefield as he assumed he would, so on top of taking Ukraine’s land and its children he is launching terrorist attacks on the people in the hope that they will lose their resilience and force their government to give up the fight.
I wish I could think of something more “we” could do that would help those people. Congress should be commended for joining much of the rest of the western world in continuing to provide military assistance to Ukraine so it can keeping fighting the fight. I get it that, when dealing with someone who has become as isolated as Putin, there are risks to us if he decides our support of Ukraine needs to be challenged, but we can’t abandon these people. They are the latest victims of a megalomaniacal bully, one who can no more be counted on to stop bullying today than could the chancellor of Germany in 1938.