“Putin Cannot Remain in Power!”

In President Biden’s historic speech in Poland yesterday, he said Putin cannot remain in power!

 The State Department rushed to assure we are not calling for regime change, Russia being a democracy, albeit one overseen by an autocrat who jails dissidents, and clearly far short of fair elections during the Putin regime. 

That statement wasn’t a “gaffe.” This is what everyone in the free world is thinking. Putin must go. It would be easy to “walk back” more effectively than our State Department did, by the President himself stating today, “What I am saying is this: I am urging the Russian people to exercise their democratic rights and select a better President for their great country.” Then let the Russian people decide how to do that—by protesting, by leaving Russia, or whatever means they find the courage to take. 

The world has listened to diplomats, politicians, newscasters on the ground, and Western military experts. We have gone via media into the front lines with Ukrainian military. We have met displaced families, often separated from husbands and brothers who remain, and we have toured field hospitals filled with wounded children. And with all this, for the first major war the world has been able to watch on TV 24/7, we all have opinions as to the best strategy. 

I have opinions:

The larger question at this time is this: Should the Ukraine compromise to save thousands of lives not yet lost; or should they hold out at all costs, to prevent the risk of a crazed dictator moving on to endanger Europe and the world? That would be an enormous sacrifice on behalf of all the people of Eastern Europe.

This decision is for Volodymyr Zelensky and his Ukrainian leadership, but my own leanings are in hopes that Ukraine hold out to the end, no concessions, not even one square mile of Donbas to be surrendered to Putin. They will certainly retain their territory and their sovereignty. They are winning this war with their sheer determination. They will survive to live again as the independent Ukraine.

Perhaps even more important for Russia and the world, the victory of Ukraine over Russia will yield the end of a tyrant who would otherwise claim victory and possibly survive politically in Russia, using a series of repressive measures against any activists who might criticize the Ukrainian offensive and with his autocratic and corrupt control. In his misguided intent to re-establish the Soviet Union of pre-1989, he is in fact destroying the country he leads. In his action to take advantage of a weakened NATO, he has experienced unintended consequences: He has emboldened and strengthened NATO.

 As President Biden said in Poland yesterday, the Russians are a great people and they are not a people who want to invade and force the subjugation of a sovereign state which clearly does not welcome such.

What should the West do next, what should NATO do, and what should the US do? 

I argued for a no-fly zone in the previous post. I still hold that we should have a no-fly zone, either operated by NATO, or under the aegis of the United Nations, which has provisions for such. What about the risk of triggering World War III or a nuclear war? Given the behavior of Putin, nothing we can withhold prevents that occurring, as it increasingly seems clear Putin is cornered and will go to any extreme to prevent a loss in his “special military operation.” 

What else? We must continue and increase humanitarian aid and military aid. We need to assure the immediate transport of MIGs to Ukraine, where Ukrainian pilots are showing great aerial skill. We should also provide advice to Ukrainian military, as well as intelligence. Neither requires us to have Americans on the ground in Ukraine. And, we need to urge/insist that all global democracies join us in such assistance–not limited to NATO members.

The President has announced willingness to accept 100,000 from Ukraine for temporary asylum. That is totally inadequate and globally embarrassing, considering almost 4 million are seeking asylum, with millions of those already in Poland, a country much smaller than the US, struggling valiantly to welcome, shelter, and feed them. We should take at least 1 million. At least 1 million. We have the capacity. Work it out! Let’s save the debate of why refugees from Ukraine vs those from S America, etc. That’s a longer discussion. This tragedy overrides such delaying debates.

We need to continue tightening sanctions and working to assure they are enforced throughout NATO. We need to sanction every member of the Russian State Duma and Federation Council—a total of 628 members, who vote unanimously in favor or whatever actions Putin proposes—or else. 

There is always more we can find to do. Let’s do it!

Are we seeking regime change? Yes, of course we are! We are urging Russians to seek regime change!

“It’s Going According to Plan”

Going back two years, nothing has been going according to plan for me, nor for you. Our plans for health safety, personal freedom, travel, shopping and much more, were upended by Covid.

Vladimir Putin claims his assault on his neighboring country is “going according to plan.” But, Ukrainians have been putting up a fierce fight, far short of the hearty welcome he said he was expecting. And, even his global “friend” China abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly’s condemnation of Russia’s actions against the Ukraine. Abstention from the second most powerful economy and power in the 21 Century sends a powerful message of caution for the Russian autocrat. China didn’t veto.

Now in power for 20 years, in pursuit of a futile dream of reassembling the original pre-1989 Soviet Union, this is looking like anything but “according to plan.” It’s looking like a massive miscalculation, likely to mark the beginning of his autocratic decline.

No matter whether he succeeds in destroying and conquering the Ukraine, his mission appears to portend the likely end of his absolute control of his country and also his influence over other countries. A very heavy toll will be exacted by Western powers, and those won’t end when the fighting ends. His home popularity will certainly wane as his countrymen suffer from the Western response to his autocratic decisions. Money, prices, food, movies, etc. for the common folk. Yachts, villas, foreign bank accounts and travel for oligarchs–and their families.

One is reminded of the later years of Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror. What are the Russian generals and oligarchs really thinking? What are they telling him–only what they think he wants to hear? What are their motives? I assume those motives are fear of reprisal if he succeeds, and hoped continued protection of their finances. They have to know this is not “going according to plan.” They have to know how it went in War Crimes trials for those serving Hitler.

And, for all of us, it’s not going according to plan. We were expecting to start about now to enjoy “normal” lives, due to the decline of Covid viruses. We were hoping to go to the theatre, discard our masks, dine out, and travel to our favored next destinations, which for some might have included Russia or the Ukraine, or neighboring countries. Not going to happen. Instead, we’re going to have to pay more at the pump.

What is the best response for civilized humanity? How to help? What can our wealthy nation do?

  1. We could install a no-fly zone immediately, along with allies. If NATO won’t authorize and support, there are provisions in the UN Charter to enable such a decision. Some fear this would trigger a nuclear war, but the President of the Ukraine is asking for that, and he knows the odds. Furthermore, Russians have already risked equivalent destruction by their wanton shelling of two nuclear reactors in the Ukraine. It is time to take action. And, we can send weapons, along with those of our allies–fast!

2. We certainly can fly hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians out of Poland to the US. We are better prepared to host them temporarily, than are the neighboring countries. We have the apparatus for the visa process, learned from evacuating Afghanistan refugees.

3. We can contribute our $ to help the people of the Ukraine. That takes discretion as to what charitable organizations to trust, and worry as to how long it will take for the money to get there. That shouldn’t prevent contributing. Let’s do it!

If we did this, all of these, the hoped for result is that any military action continuing would have to be ground only, and the US would only risk its share of drones, aircraft, and airmen, along with those of allies, closely coordinated. Losses for western allies would be limited. Russia would have to fight a ground war with people who are fighting for their country and their freedom, along with their homes and possessions. Refugees would sleep in warm beds with food for their families while their futures are decided.

And, Vladimir Putin would likely see the beginning of the end of his mismanaged and personally aggrandizing control of a great country, and a chance for it to be great again…

… just not his way.