Thursday, January 8, 2015
The Wolf at the Door
I read the other day an interesting, insightful and timely passage from John Le Carré’s “A Most Wanted Man” that I’d like to share:
“That’s one of the greatest problems of our modern world, you know. Forgetting. The victim never forgets. Ask the Irishman what the English did to him in 1920 and he’ll tell you the day of the month and the time and the name of every man they killed. Ask an Iranian what the English did to him in 1953 and he’ll tell you. His child will tell you. His grandchild will tell you. And when he has one, his great-grandchild will tell you too. But ask an Englishman—” He flung up his hands in mock ignorance. “If he ever knew, he has forgotten. ‘Move on!’ you tell us. ‘Move on! Forget what we’ve done to you. Tomorrow’s another day!’ But it isn’t, Mr. Brue.’ He still had Brue’s hand. “Tomorrow was created yesterday, you see. That is the point I was making to you. And by the day before yesterday, too. To ignore history is to ignore the wolf at the door.”
When I read the words “wolf at the door,” the inherent warning in them struck me like a thunderclap. This simple admonition should be read and re-read by all national leaders around the world regardless of their political or ideological affiliation.
If you ignore Russian history, you will be doomed to ignore Putin’s armies at your doors.
Of all modern empires, Russia has maintained its preeminent position as one that incorrigibly invades, subdues and subjugates independent nations near and far. It has successfully waged war against its neighbors since its establishment in muddy swamps around Muscovy and ultimately expanded to nine time zones from Europe to the Far East.
Russia has bloodied its hands in every country that became a captive nation while the free world did nothing to stop it and demand restitution. During the famine murders of more than 7 million Ukrainian men, women and children in 1932-33, Washington cold-heartedly formally recognized the existence of the USSR.
During World War II, Russia’s crimes against humanity rivaled Nazi Germany’s but the latter was the sworn enemy of the free world, not the former.
At the end of the war, Moscow took advantage of the free world’s desire for an end to warfare and the start of peace by seizing freedom-loving nations of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania and East Germany.
In the latter half of the 20th century, Moscow persecuted the captive nations and deprived them of their human, national, religious, cultural and linguistic rights. Today Russia continues to deny all of its citizens, media and NGOs of their rights.
Despite the free world’s shock and disbelief, some 11 months ago and five days after it hosted the global peace festival called the Winter Olympics, Russia, a G-level country, launched the historic Russo-Ukraine War of 2014 in the first step to re-subjugate Ukraine and restore the Russian empire.
The United States and the free world, for all intents and purposes, have remained inert in the face of these Russian violations of international order and UN resolutions. The reluctantly implemented economic sanctions against Russia have begun to have their intended effect with the Russian economy in a tailspin. However, the short-attention span world leaders have also grown bored of threatening and complaining about Russia and some, like France and Germany, are hoping for a cessation of the war at all costs – even a freeze of hostilities.
Such an unresolved conclusion of the war would leave Ukraine in a state of perpetual instability, bloodshed and fear much like the Middle East. The Daily Beast wrote earlier this week that Vladimir Putin has enacted terrorism in Ukraine. This can escalate to a cross-country wave of Russian instigated acts of terrorism, including drive-by killings and bombings even in western Ukraine. That possibility alone should convince Ukrainian and world leaders to devise a plan to convince Russia to cease hostilities, withdraw from Ukraine and pay reparations. If that doesn’t work, then Russia must be expelled from Ukraine at all costs in a joint Gulf War-like military campaign.
The US and free world must understand that Russia is a criminal, belligerent, terrorist state with Vladimir Putin as the man in charge. He should be treated like other national leaders who have committed crimes against humanity. He should not be treated as an errant citizen, a perpetrator of a misdemeanor, a jaywalker, who will learn his lesson and reform after paying his fine.
It would be irresponsible and dangerous to presume that.
Despite peaceful coexistence, détente and re-set, Russia has not changed in 1,000 years. Saber rattling, militarization, launching sorties against US, EU and NATO, and boasting that Russia’s army is unbeatable are the mainstays of Putin’s foreign policy.
The West should hold Putin personally responsible for the war against Ukraine and other unending transgressions. For committing crimes on a grand scale, he must be held accountable and brought to justice. The free world would violate the former captive nations’ trust if it is already preparing plans to welcome Putin back into its midst after a respectable amount of time elapses.
The United States, and perhaps the other free world countries, have a legal mechanisms to coerce Russia into quitting Ukraine and changing its ways. They only need courage, single-mindedness, resolve, watchfulness and a good memory. Don’t waste this opportunity.
The wolf is already marking its territory.