But there is one who does, Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.
His courage and that of the Ukrainian people have been resounding lauded, yet we still fail to really act.
Fearing that we will be drawn into a direct conflict with Russia that will escalate to a nuclear exchange, we have become paralyzed, deluding ourselves that we can avoid a kinetic confrontation altogether through economic sanctions and supply of defensive arms to the Ukrainians.
But the power differential is just too great for this strategy to work, and these are just the beginning of Russia’s or Putin’s ambitions. And the actions are now notably embraced by China (meaning we’re not dealing with one potential threat, but two). But the real answer is, just as in the time of Nevil Chamberlain attempting to placate Hitler, we are already at war. And pretending we can avoid conflict will only serve to encourage Putin to go further.
We have effectively adopted a policy of running away when threatened by nuclear war. This gives Putin tremendous power. Why stop in Ukraine? It’s already been revealed Moldova is next. What do we do then? Do we again circle the wagons around our NATO allies as Moldova gets invaded, because Putin has repeated his threat to use nukes?
And how about when Putin decides to pick off those ex-soviet bloc countries who have managed to join NATO, will we again cower at the threat of nuclear retaliation?
Putin has paralyzed NATO by simply making a threat, and if he can do that, there is no end to it.
Likewise, China is watching closely and learning. If NATO and the United States remain feckless to the carnage that is currently Ukraine, how can we protect Taiwan or any other nation for that matter, in the Pacific or anywhere else?
All one needs to do is threaten with nukes. Just like in 1939, when England and France should have said no to the surrender of the Sudetenland, it was a prelude. And we all know now how far Hitler’s ambitions extended. The retreat has to stop now. Otherwise, we simply encourage both Russia and China.
And yes, there is risk. But, that risk doesn’t diminish with continued retreat. Like dealing with any playground bully, it simply increases with every step backward.
So what should NATO and the US do?
Quit worrying about being provocative, as we are eventually going to have to confront Russia directly, and do what we would do otherwise. Transfer to Ukraine both defensive and offensive arms to take on the Russians, including MiG-29s and Su-25s that are held by NATO members. Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, all operate these aircraft which are staples for the Ukrainian air force and would require no additional training to fly. We could incentivize them and reduce the economic burden on these countries by offering to replace some or all these aircraft with used F-16’s, which they are all flying and converting their air forces to.
Likewise, a former Assistant Secretary for the Navy has recommended that we transfer three squadrons of A-10 tank busters that we are in the process of decommissioning to Ukraine and that we could do in a few days. Transfer three A-10 aircraft squadrons to Ukraine now (defensenews.com). He believes they could assimilate these planes quickly.
If necessary, implement a no-fly zone over Western Ukraine and enforce it, and mine Ukraine’s harbors in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to prevent resupply.
This will begin to even the odds. It’s not directly an attack on Russia – that interpretation will be up to them and it will be their move. But in short, provide Ukraine the capability that it really needs to even the odds. Not just short-range infantry weapons such as Javelin and Stinger. Effective as they are, they are not enough.
Yes, these actions might well draw NATO and the US into a direct conflict with Putin. But, guess what? We’re already in it, and we’re getting played. He’s the one pushing, and we keep backing up.
Yes, we are putting economic sanctions on Russia, but how much more carnage must we tolerate before we finally decide to act decisively? There is no guarantee that Putin will not use nukes, he is unstable, but they’re never will be. And in the meantime, China is assessing our actions.
Right now, they are seeing little courage and mixed resolve. And that must be encouraging.
Dr. James Refalo is a Professor at Cal State University Los Angeles and a former Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S Navy.