Russia invaded Ukraine yesterday. What was the headline in Reuters? Ukrainian prime minister Poroshenko accuses Russia of invading Ukraine. The US and EU still do not want to acknowledge what has been true since Russia invaded Crimea: Ukraine and Russia are at war. We still talk about separatists and Russian troop movements, but we can’t speak about the truth: Russia wants at least eastern Ukraine as a satellite, and it has started a war with Ukraine to achieve that outcome. Why won’t we acknowledge that?
We don’t want to say the truth because the truth is too awful to think about. Ukraine wants to be part of the European Community. If Russia goes to war to prevent that, and we don’t acknowledge that, we can pretend the situation is less serious than it is. If we hang Ukraine out to dry, we look terrible. If we hang Ukraine out to dry, but manage to disguise that decision as “grave concern”, we can pretend to be a leader and potential protector when we’re not. We’ve expressed grave concern over Russia’s actions since February, and this week we see how far Putin is willing to go. He has decided not to disguise his aggression in eastern Ukraine any longer.
Everyone knows the question of how to respond to the war in Ukraine is a difficult one. It is the first international war in Europe proper since 1945, and it is terribly close to many other wars in North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. We have tried to have it both ways with Russia, where we condemn its actions, but constantly say we have to gather more evidence to confirm what is obvious. It has started a war with Ukraine. The consequences of this war are big, because one of the combatants is Russia, and because Ukraine is such a key state for the West. It is for 2014 what Poland was in 1939. That does not mean we have to go to war with Russia. It does mean we have to acknowledge the truth about Russia’s aggression right now.
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