How many times have you heard the cliché:
“we must not forget; we must remember and prevent similar atrocities from ever happening again”?
Hearing these statements, we get all excited. We want to do the right thing. We encourage our children to take history classes, visit museums, or watch relevant movies. Yet, when we find ourselves in the cross roads of history, we are collectively conflicted. It is not easy to do the right thing. There are activists amongst us speaking in loud voices, hoping for action, hoping to make people think and take an initiative. There are those of us at loss of understanding the gravity of current events (Ukraine, after all, is far away). Many of us are concerned for our own welfare. From a macro-global point of view, we fear a potential of WW3 or a nuclear conflict. On a micro-level, we worry about the cost of gasoline and loss of corporate profits.
In my opinion everything that is happening in Ukraine today, has happened in our recent human history and if we combine what we should have learned from history, the strategy of action becomes clear.
Early in the last century, we had two main global aggressors, Hitler and Stalin. While both were horrible, history is written by the winners; therefore Hitler (the loser) is more widely known and considered bigger of the two evils. Prior to 1939, Hitler signed international agreements and broke them at his convenience. He bullied the world to allow him to annex territories and countries which he considered natively Germanic and, in an effort to alleviate a global conflict, the world complied. At the time too many remembered the Great War and the 40 million casualties. There was no taste for conflict to stop progression of the NAZI Germany as long as it did not enter into certain sovereign lands.
Summer before September 1, 1939; as every other summer, people traveled around Europe. They enjoyed themselves in ocean resorts or mountain retreats, visited historic cities (I hope they visited Dresden, Berlin or Warsaw. I hope they saw the Monastery of Monte Cassino – all of which were utterly destroyed in WW2). Newspapers were reporting of political tension but no one thought that Hitler and Stalin would attack. It was inconceivable that after appeasing Hitler with annexation of Sudetenland and watching Anschluss in 1938, he would continue on with the invasion of Poland. The world watched and was surprised when on September 1, 1939 Hitler entered Poland from the West and Stalin entered form the East.
How many Books have been written or movies made considering what would happen if Hitler was stopped or eliminated sooner? Many of us would agree that a successful early deposition from power, would make a very big difference in casualties as well as economic and cultural losses (70-85 million lives could be saved).
Very few wondered what would happen if Stalin was deposed from power. Maybe Soviet Union would be dissolved as a matter of ending WW2 and maybe there would not be a Putin today (but this is just a conjecture).
Regarding the cold war. The world is proud of how economic policies of the Western powers pushed the Soviet Union to the verge of bankruptcy while the satellite countries kept uprising and demanding their sovereignty causing unmanageable commotion. We are all pleased that not a single bullet was fired when the Berlin Wall went down, the Eastern block collapsed and many central European countries regained their independence.
Putting the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict of 1992 aside, peace in Europe lasted for only about 30 years. Russia is a remaining artifact of the Soviet Union and Putin is a remaining artifact of the KGB. Just as Hitler lamented the results of WW1, Putin laments the results of the Cold War. Hitler exercised his influence over Austria; Putin exercises his influence over Belarus and Chechnya. Germany broke the Treaty of Versailles and numerous minor treaties, Russia broke The Budapest Memorandum of 1994.
High level summary:
In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the United States, Russia, and Britain committed “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force” against the country. Those assurances played a key role in persuading the Ukrainian government in Kyiv to give up what amounted to the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, consisting of some 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads.
As I am writing this blog:
* Ukraine is fighting for its sovereignty
* The world is in fear WW3 and/or a nuclear conflict.
* Putin is raging with military forces, he has cut citizens of Russia from global news in lieu of his misinformation and propaganda
* Global economic sanctions are being put on Russia
* Western, private sector companies operating in Ukraine are providing support to their employees
What else can we do:
* Speak up and provide true information about the current events
* Participate in humanitarian relief efforts directly to Ukraine and indirectly to the countries that are working with Ukrainian refugees
* Institute more sanctions on Russia (Putin will need to be eliminated from within)
* Provide Ukraine with more assets, goods, services – whatever they are asking for
* If you are a leader of a company that does business in Russia – STOP! (take a financial loss, it is the right thing to do).
* Stop purchasing energy from Russia (if prices of gasoline go up, it’s OK – it is the right thing to do)
* Stop purchasing raw materials/minerals from Russia (there will be an effect on our industry but it is the right thing to do).
* Provide satellite communication and terminals to Russia to assist anti Putin sentiments. Factual information and accurate news is power, lets empower the Russian people.
* Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and BBC do broadcast into Ukraine and Russia. These people need access to unadulterated information.
It is mindboggling that today in a civilized world, we are experiencing and allowing for such atrocities to happen. We cannot allow Ukraine to fall. Ukraine is not the only country of Putin’s interest. His agenda and ambitions are much bigger. These types of people do not stop with minor appeasement; they take it as a win or a sign of weakness and that empowers them to the next step.
How many times have you heard the cliché: