When Might Makes Right?

Chris Lofting (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2 ), via Wikimedia Commons
Chris Lofting (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2 ), via Wikimedia Commons

By Peter Andre Globensky

Whether watching the weeping, inconsolable young mother clutching her ten-year-old son for dear life having learned that her other son had been killed in the bombing, or witnessing the packed platforms of train stations overflowing with children and women desperately escaping the carnage, their husbands left behind to defend the homeland, we weep for the suffering people of Ukraine.

Our hearts and wallets are broken open as we witness the devasted urban landscapes caused by the targeted and indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets – from maternity wards to crucial infrastructure, residents huddling for warmth, bodies strewn in the streets. Through all the pain, sorrow and tragedy, we cannot but admire the resilience and determination of the embattled Ukrainian people as they attempt to rid their country of this invasive Russian pestilence.

Then again, perhaps our outpouring of grief for their suffering serves to assuage the undercurrents of guilt that we could do more, but are not doing so. Amid much gnashing of teeth from our leaders, the usual words of condemnation and outrage are emitted appropriate to the most recent atrocity.

However, the response of the West to this barbaric invasion has been, to be kind, nothing less than anemic, terrified should we provoke the Russian bear into a disastrous escalation. Best to allow the sacrifice of this recovering democracy on the altar of Putin’s corrupt kleptocracy so we may keep it all “quiet on the Western Front.”

The West’s response to date has been three-fold. Deploy an ever-increasing number of general and targeted economic sanctions, deliver specialized military assistance and provide financial and humanitarian aid.

With respect to the latter, we can do no less and the West’s response has been generous. It is in the first two categories where the West has displayed a severe lack of imagination and guile. In dealing with a retread KGB agent-cum-billionaire autocrat like Putin, guile and subterfuge are essential components of a strategy to humble this latter-day barbarian!

The purpose of economic sanctions against Russian oligarchs enriched at the feet of Vlad the Invader and the Russian people is to inflict sufficient economic and financial pain upon both entities that they will force Putin to “reconsider” his mis-adventure.

So how has that worked so far?

Other than inflicting gradual but serious commercial and financial pain upon hapless Russians, and other than providing enough advance notice of sanctions against the oligarchs to permit them to move and further disguise and hide their plundered assets, what have sanctions accomplished? Have such sanctions slowed the Russian advance in Ukraine, have they mitigated the slaughter and suffering? Have the tanks and troops withdrawn from invaded territory?

Or, cognizant that this is the best the West has to offer, Putin and his generals have been gifted with ample time to finish the job and “absorb” yet more geography into the Russian orbit. After all, aside from the required condemnations, how did the West react to the conquests in Chechnya, Georgia and the Crimea? Putin may be crazy but he is not stupid! After one’s objectives are met and re-alignments are configured among new and existing allies, the financial and social isolation suffered upon Russian citizens can then be managed.

As for the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars the West has provided in military equipment to the Ukraine, a simple question with an obvious answer: Who gets to keep all that military hardware after Ukraine falls to this Russian aggression? Instead of contributing to the stockpile of Russian weapons, would it not be possible to initiate a more promising military strategy based on cunning and subterfuge?

Consider the annihilating damage a swarm of armed drones might have inflicted on that 40 klm-long convoy of stalled Russian tanks and armoured vehicles, the drones “being of unspecified origin but deemed Ukrainian”. And what of air power? Never mind the impractical sledge-hammer of ‘no-fly-zones’.

Surely Western fighter jets suddenly flying under Ukrainian air force insignia could offer equivalence. And where are the Blackwater mercenaries when you need them? Arguably, deploying thousands of well-trained mercenaries “of uncertain origin, but deemed Ukrainian” would be a far better use of some of the millions now being thrown at the Russian wall to see if it will stick. Tactical military operations are rarely discussed publicly. The business of war is unsavory. Death and destruction are unpalatable.

Might creates right. Either directly or by proxy, the US and Russia have never suffered pains of conscience in “neutralizing” heads of state and other leaders deemed unsupportive of their superpower interests. This reality places the courageous leadership of President Zelensky at great risk.

The vitality and survival of democracies depend on our collective ability to set limits to the boundless ambitions of tyrants. A failure to do so will be an undoing of our own making!

Peter Andre Globensky is a former Chief of Staff to the Minister of External Relations and International Development and was a commissioned officer with the CAF.

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