One Hand Tied

Now is the time to say, No! Now is the time to say, Stop!

It makes sense to approach the war in Ukraine with the goal of ending the Russian invasion without provoking a world war. But we should recognize we are already in a world war and one side is not playing by established norms. One side is dictating the terms of the conflict and we are going along. The end result is; the United States and its allies, are sacrificing the lives of Ukrainians to preserve our own.

There is no legitimate reason for Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The explanations given to the world, and to the Russian people, by Vladimir Putin are all lies. Ukraine poses no threat to Russia, or its neighbors. It is a young democracy trying to reach for a more prosperous future. Ukraine has no interest in and no ability to threaten Russia.

There is no excuse for the tactics being employed by Russian forces against Ukraine. Innocent people are being killed in attacks on residential buildings, schools, hospitals and known shelters. Survivors of the attacks are having their lives stripped away from them in other ways. Everything they have lived and worked for is being destroyed before their eyes. Ukrainians are being forced to begin their lives again, from scratch, each time a Russian bomb decimates a home, place of business, or Ukrainian city.

This is more than war. It is mass murder being carried out by one government against an entire nation. Although the United States and its traditional European allies are doing a great deal to help; from delivering arms to be used in defense of Ukraine, to the imposition of sanctions meant to collapse the Russian economy, I still have the sense we are standing by and doing almost nothing. Putin seems un-deterred and worse, the more he is backed into a corner the more willing he is to use all the power at his command to wipe Ukraine off the map. If he wins, he will have nothing to show for it, but a country in ruin.

Putin has calculated correctly on one count. He knows the United States and its allies are in no mood to contribute their own forces in defense of Ukraine. The U.S., in particular, is tired of war and a direct confrontation with Russia raises the possibility of nuclear conflict. Putin understands that we would look at this conflict through the lens of World War II and the Cold War and therefore refuse to get involved directly. I think we have made a mistake by looking at the Russian invasion from that perspective.

I fully appreciate how close we may be to a full scale, global shooting war involving nuclear weapons, if we make the wrong move. I also believe that if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, he will not stop there. Why would he? He has long believed the break-up of the Soviet Union was a historic mistake. He has long suggested he would like to see a Soviet style republic reconstituted. If he succeeds with his invasion of Ukraine, he will have a model to work with. He is demonstrating he does not care about world opinion. He does not care about the lives of innocent civilians. He does not care about the lives of his own soldiers, or the economic welfare of his citizens. He cares about expanding the influence of Russia. He wants to rebuild an empire. He must be stopped cold.

Let’s look at the current conflict in raw terms.

Attacking Russian forces that are physically in Ukraine is not an attack on Russia. It is a defense of Ukraine.

Putin has warned he will consider any nation that tries to intervene militarily on the side of Ukraine as a party to the conflict, which means that nation would be risking Russian attack. By making this declaration Putin is, in fact, declaring war on the world. He alone is making the rules and we will face his wrath if we do not obey his rules.

Ukraine has every right to eject Russian forces from its country and any country that is truly on the side of Ukraine should be willing to use every tool or weapon in its toolbox to help Ukraine achieve that objective.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been asking for a no-fly zone over his country. Regardless of Ukraine’s status as a non-member state of NATO, this is a reasonable request and one the U.S. and its allies could deliver on in a number of ways. Russian forces have no right and no justification to be using the skies over Ukraine to attack its people. They should be stopped and the world has every justification to stop them.

For weeks, the world saw satellite images of a column of Russian military vehicles inching slowly toward Kyiv. Those forces were not invited into Ukraine, they represent an unprovoked foreign invasion and they should be expelled or destroyed.

Russian forces, including warships, have been sweeping through southern Ukraine, with the goal of securing the port city of Odesa. These forces have no right to be there and should be forced out. The world has the ability to do more than it is currently doing to help Ukraine defend itself. The credible threat of outside military intervention might be enough to force Putin to re-think this invasion, but the world should be prepared to do more than issue threats. Putin will keep going as long as he believes the world does not have the will, or the stomach, to fight back.

None of the options I’ve described would be a direct attack on Russia. They would all be taken solely for the purpose of defending Ukraine by repelling an unprovoked invasion. Russia is trespassing on Ukraine and the world has a right and duty to come to Ukraine’s defense.

Over the last month the world has been impressed by how the people of Ukraine are fighting back. We have offered help, but we have done so at arm’s length. We are more than willing to offer supplies, to offer our prayers, and to cheer Ukrainians on as they take on an enemy which holds no concern for human life. We are pointing out the bully on the playground, but we are asking the weaker kid to do the fighting for us, as we watch from the sidelines and hope for a miracle; a Hollywood ending. The weak defeats the strong.

The war however is real life and death and the enemy is taking advantage of our humanity and sense of fair play. Russia is breaking all the rules, destroying a country, destroying families, lives and futures. Russia is clearly in the wrong. Russia has no business in Ukraine. The countries of the world who understand this — and that’s most of them — should do everything in their power to end the conflict, including the use of military force inside Ukraine, to expel the invading force. If we don’t, we are asking an underdog nation to do our fighting for us, to defend our principles, with one hand tied.

If Putin succeeds in Ukraine, he will succeed over all of us. This is our fight. If we do not take responsibility for it then Putin is already in charge.

More stories at ThisDecisiveMoment.com

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Dean Pagani

Dean Pagani

Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.

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