The Unholy Alliance With Russia Unravels
When the Soviet Union broke up, there were widespread rumors that a deal had been made with the Western world. Mother Russia would not exercise military force against its breakaway satellites, so long as they did not enter the orbit of the Western world. In 1994, Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in return from promises from the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia that there would be no interference in its internal affairs.
The deal worked for a long time. Then came Vladimir Putin. Putin rejected the “secret” deal with the West, and has now attempted to reestablish hegemony over the Ukraine and potentially other breakaway Soviet Republics.
Tyrants abhor a vacuum. When power-hungry men like the leaders of Russia and China see weakness, they rush in to fill the gap created by those running the other way.
What is going on in the Ukraine today is, in part, a test of the West. The weak sanctions initially imposed by the United States and NATO countries, along with a lack of troop commitment and parsimonious military aid to Ukraine, is all that Putin needed to realize that he would face little or no opposition.
The rest of the world is waiting and watching to see who is going to emerge the leader of the new world order. Will it be the West, or will it be Russia and the Chinese? Right now, the balance is tipping to those who think democracy is a joke, and not to those who advance the cause of peace and justice.
There should be nothing shocking about this. The West stood by and watched Prussian aggression prior to World War I. The West closed its eyes to Adolf Hitler when he invaded the Sudetenland in violation of the Versailles Treaty. It seems as though democracies never learn their lesson, until war is inevitable.
In the meantime, the world is no longer a neat set of chess pieces on a simple checkerboard. Democracy needs to be supported. It might mean military support, sanctions against Russia, or troops that make the Russians nervous. Doing nothing, however, simply tilts the gameboard in favor of those who hate the West and seek to undermine its viability.
Other nations are watching closely. Should they be friends with Russia or the Western world? Who has the power? Most nations in the world are not free, and might be willing to go with Russia if it best serves their interests.
To the extent the United States does not support President Zelensky of the Ukraine with military hardware, and does not ramp up the number of troops in eastern Europe, Russia will do exactly what it needs to in order to fill the vacuum. The rest of the world is watching. Is it simply that we have decided to turn over eastern Europe to Russia?
What America and the West most need is leadership.
Cliff Rieders is a Board-Certified Trial Advocate in Williamsport, is Past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, and a past member of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of these organizations.