DANIEL O. JAMISON
For Russian President Vladimir Putin, history demands that Russia invade and control Ukraine. Putin sees Ukraine as a vital buffer for Russian security.
Twice in the past two centuries, invaders from Europe have ravaged Russia. In 1812, Napoleon led some 500,000 troops to Russia, defeating the Russian army in the brutal Battle of Borodino and occupying a burning Moscow before his catastrophic retreat during the Russian winter.
In June 1941, unsuspecting Stalin, who had secretly allied with Hitler two years earlier to share Poland with Germany during Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, was stunned when Hitler launched a massive, multi-pronged savage invasion of the Soviet Union.
One of the main thrusts of the German invasion was in Ukraine, which Germany quickly invaded, bringing together some 500,000 Soviet troops in a pincer movement east of and around Kiev. In the spring of 1942, the Soviet army suffered significant losses in the Second Battle of Kharkov, Ukraine. Ukraine was then a starting point for Hitler’s attack on Stalingrad, where the Soviets finally stopped and finally began to reverse the German assault.
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The Russian Republic of the Soviet Union alone lost an estimated 6,750,000 troops and over 7 million civilians in World War II, known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.
Putin was born in 1952. His father and mother suffered greatly during the German siege of Leningrad. His older brother perished. Other family members died in the war.
For centuries, Germany has been divided into several principalities. While Prussia gained military importance, a fragmented Germany generally did not threaten its neighbors. After Otto Von Bismarck united Germany in the late 1800s, World War I followed in 1914 with costly losses for Russia. Left united after its defeat in this war, some 20 years later, Germany again launched war on its neighbors, with catastrophic consequences for Russia.
From the perspective of the victorious Soviet Union, Germany had to be dismembered to eliminate a future threat. The Soviet Union ensured the dismemberment of Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of East Germany in 1989-90. Stalin also protected his nation with the âiron curtainâ of the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, which is now associated with the Warsaw Pact alliance of the Soviet Union which countered NATO.
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Russia has historically and still perceives NATO as hostile. Russia is wary of a reunified Germany. Putin said the breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. For Putin, the separation of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics was a great tragedy that has insulted 1,000 years of Russian history. He presumably sees the break as a weak and illegitimate surrender of Yeltsin and Gorbachev, the latter having allegedly received an ignored oral pledge that with Gorbachev’s agreement to unify Germany, NATO would not expand. to the east. For Putin, Ukraine is an essential part of Russia.
Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO membership should be seen in this context. For Putin, Russia’s security demands that an increasingly strong and independent Ukraine be forcibly brought back under Russian control. For him, now is the time to do it. Russia is no longer the militarily weakened vestige of the Soviet Union which, around 2000, itself asked for an invitation to join NATO. America is likely seen as politically weak, divided, and groping in its recent defeat in Afghanistan. Europe is in shock from the Trump years. The Ukrainian army will only be stronger and better equipped in the future. Russia can handle the Ukrainian guerrillas. It’s always like that. Belarus is a seemingly willing invasion partner, but perhaps not in the future.
Russia is said to have prepared to deal with Western sanctions. Russia has already moved medical and logistical war support to support its troops massed on the Ukrainian border. Russia intends to invade Ukraine.
In response, the West has publicly avoided the use of military force. The West will not even say: “depending on developments, all options are on the table” for fear of “provoking” Putin.
What more can the West do? First, expressly state that all options are on the table. Second, back this declaration with an urgent increase now (not after the invasion) and immediate forward positioning in NATO countries adjacent to Ukraine of US and NATO troops and capabilities. Third, explain publicly that the militarist conduct of Russia and Belarus requires special attention to protecting NATO’s borders and interests.
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Are these steps too âprovocative? They can’t cause an invasion that would happen anyway, but they have a good chance of preventing it.
Daniel O. Jamison is a retired lawyer who writes on military affairs and other matters. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.