It’s the 21st century, and a country has been invaded by the army of a shirtless man on a horse.
As Russian troops march across Crimea and the Russian parliament considers the annexation of the territory from Ukraine, the international community is stumbling while watching a repeat of history. Six years ago the Russian bear reached its claw into Georgia and grabbed ahold of the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, tearing them away from that sovereign nation through military invasion and creating two Russian satellite states functioning under the guise of being newly independent republics.
The international community didn’t stop Russia then, and it likely won’t stop Russia now. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been emboldened by years of US, European, and UN inaction to stop him, whether in Georgia, Syria, Ukraine or anywhere else. Putin will do what Putin wants to do, as he has always done, and the international community will watch, sweat, and offer little more to Ukrainians than speeches and press conferences condemning what has happened to their country.
When the dust settles, it will be Putin who decides what happens to Crimea, not the US, Europe, the UN, or anyone else. And when Putin decides that the Russian bear will claw a line through Ukraine establishing Crimea as an independent republic and de facto Russian satellite, nobody should be the slightest bit surprised.
Russian President Putin will not yield. German President Angela Merkel recently concluded after her phone call with Putin about the situation in Ukraine that Putin was “out of touch with reality.”
The question is, who’s reality is he out of touch with? Putin’s reality is shirtless horseback riding, shooting whales with crossbows, and hugging polar bears. Putin’s reality is supplying the Assad regime with weapons to massacre those struggling for freedom in Syria. Putin’s reality is invading neighboring countries to enforce his will on them at the tip of a bayonet.
The fact is, Putin’s reality is reality. Inaction on Georgia, Syria, and (so far) Ukraine has supplanted any reality of international law or standards with Putin’s reality, and for years now we have been living in Putin’s world.
Before another nation is invaded by Russia, before protestors in another country are silenced by Russian weapons, before Russia rewrites international norms of conduct and inspires other countries to begin enforcing their will through unprovoked military action, Putin must be stopped.
The reaction by the international community must be swift, punitive, and unequivocal in delivering the message that such aggression will not be tolerated in the 21st century. The fate of not only Ukraine, but the course of history in our time, depends on it.
(this article is available in French here)