Commentary

Only NATO can staunch the bloodbath in Ukraine — and it must

March 7, 2022 10:58 am

A protester against Russian invasion of Ukraine holds a sign in front of Brandenburg gate on Feb. 24, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Hannibal Hanschke | Getty Images

It’s time for NATO to do more than remain on the sidelines as Russian President Vladimir Putin slaughters the Ukrainian people. 

Putin has made clear he’s not going to end Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine until the fledgling democracy is brought to its knees, even if that means wiping out Ukraine’s decisively outgunned defense forces and engineering the genocide of the Ukrainian population.

Make no mistake, what Putin is doing in Ukraine is a genocide, and denying that will not make the victims of his brutal war any less dead or displaced.

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As of Sunday, 1.5 million Uranian refugees have been forced to escape their homeland. It took 7 months for that many refugees to flee Syria, but it’s taken little more than a week for that to happen in Ukraine.

If there’s any doubt what Putin has in store for the people of Ukraine, we only need to look at the Russian dictator’s record of war crimes in Chechnya and Syria, where Putin had no qualms about mercilessly punishing the civilian populations to achieve his political goals.

Once part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine is not a signatory to the NATO Treaty, which includes a provision that commits each member to treat an attack against one member as an attack on all of its members. But there is nothing in the rules to keep the multinational alliance from acting to stop Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

On the contrary, NATO, which includes virtually every democracy on the European continent, as well as the United States and Canada, has a moral obligation to act.

The only just war is a war against unmitigated evil. Putin is evil personified.

If Ukraine will not stand, Europe will not stand.

– Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky

It is Putin’s perverse fantasy that he is somehow “the chosen one” — the only one with the courage and genius to “make Russia great again” — that’s driving the de facto dictator to unleash his country’s military machine on Ukraine. 

But don’t be confused. He’s not on an ideological mission. Putin is no communist. He’s a KGB-trained thug, who imagines himself a 21st Century czar. He’s not trying to lead and protect the Russian people as much as make them obey. 

And the war against Ukraine is not, as Putin’s propaganda machine insists, a righteous quest to rescue the Ukrainian people from a maniacal Nazi regime. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish and lost family in the Holocaust. The real maniac in this scenario is Putin, who’s proven time and again in the two decades since he assumed power in Russian that he’ll do whatever it takes to crush anyone who gets in his way.

NATO’s biggest fear is that, by stepping in to stop Putin from exterminating the people of Ukraine and sate his imperialist ambitions, he might do more than hint at unleashing Russia’s nuclear arsenal against the West.

Last week, Putin announced that he’s put his country’s nuclear forces into “special combat readiness.” In practical terms, the announcement changes nothing. Russia’s nuclear weaponry, say experts, are always on alert and ready to pulverize our planet several times over. While that’s hardly a comforting thought, it’s been part of our reality for decades. (Likewise, America’s nuclear arsenal is always on alert.)

Is Putin bluffing? Only he can say. 

But here are the options on the table. Either NATO stops Putin’s advancing army, or else we all sit back and watch helplessly as Putin butchers the Ukrainian people — and then we wait for him to decide which country he wants to invade next.

Will it be Finland? Latvia? Poland?

No one wants to imagine a replay of Hitler’s largely unchallenged 1939 invasion of Poland, the event that triggered World War II, because no one wants to live the unimaginable: World War III.

But wouldn’t it have been better to live in a world where Hitler’s quest for world domination was turned back in Poland instead on the beaches of Normandy?

Ukraine isn't a member of NATO. But that doesn't mean NATO doesn't have a moral obligation to act.

Over the weekend, Zelensky begged NATO and U.S. officials to enforce a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine to prevent the inevitable carpet bombing of his people by the Russian air force. His argument was blunt: “If Ukraine will not stand, Europe will not stand.”

So far, NATO and the United States have refused to commit to establishing a no-fly zone, claiming it would draw us directly into the conflict, restart the Cold War, and risk a nuclear confrontation, though they are considering providing MIG jets from Poland to Ukraine. 

For now, the West has limited its involvement to supplying weapons and other aid to Ukraine, as if somehow that means that we’re immune from Russian attack. Don’t bet on it.

All euphemisms aside, the West is already at war with Putin, the New Cold War has begun, and the terror in Ukraine will not end until NATO stanches the bloodbath there and Putin’s czarist fantasies are quashed.

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James E. Garcia
James E. Garcia

James E. Garcia is a Phoenix-based journalist, playwright and communications consultant. As a journalist, he has worked as a reporter, columnist, editor and foreign correspondent. He was the first Latino Affairs correspondent for KJZZ, and the first Latino editor of a major progressive news weekly in the U.S., The San Antonio Current. James has taught creative and non-fiction writing, ethnic studies, theater, literature and Latino politics at ASU. The founder and producing artistic director of New Carpa Theater Co., James is the author of more than 30 plays, including the upcoming “The Two Souls of Cesar Chavez.”

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