Live from Lviv, Michael Bociurkiw painted a bloody picture, his own world lived out to the soundtrack of air raid sirens. The besieged city of Mariupol is now a scene from an apocalyptic future, citizens forced to kill stray dogs for food, snow being melted for water, contaminated by dead corpses. This is a violation of International Humanitarian Law on a vast scale and the Ukrainians will not forget it. Strident efforts are being made to document each toe that the Russians place over the red line. Journalists and war photographers playing their role to make sure that when the time comes, the Russians are going to be held accountable. Yet the battle continues and the Russians are bombing cities into submission, forcing Ukrainians to flee into the Russian Federation. From there, who knows what is becoming of them.
The Russians are facing their own problems. With both deaths and casualties in the thousands, it is clear that they are getting far more than they bargained for. Despite the West being mesmerised by a perceived military machine, the Russian forces have gaps. We haven’t seen them use air force or combined operations, they have yet to use their navy from the Black Sea and thanks to increased intelligence, their moves are far easier to plot. Michael remains insistent on finding the positives. When Ukraine’s world seems to be splintering around them, the future is still there. Perhaps one without Russian oligarchs, without pro-Russian parties and with a renewed sense of vigour in the fight against corruption. Once the hostilities subside, the future is still there.
‘We let this happen on our watch’. Decisive words from Sir Michael Fallon, echoed by security specialist Edward Lucas who is rousing in his tone. The West were warned, over and again, yet our signature approach has been one of ‘ignorance, arrogance, cynicism and naivety’ and it’s about time we approach this catastrophic situation with humility. Ukrainians are now paying the price in a shattering of lives because we did not listen when we were warned. One of the strands of the West’s attitude is a preference not to take risks. We are continuously more frightened of escalation than of Russia getting what it wants and this is reflected in our behaviour. The result? Putin escalates anyway and ‘we lose’. The risks of inaction are greater than those of action. And yet, we still don’t act. Anne Applebaum describes this as a geopolitical tipping point, a moment when everything may change. If Putin has his way, kleptocratic autocracy will triumph over the west and Russia will play the role he thinks it should. This is a direct challenge to our institutions and every belief and moral that has governed the world since the end of the Second World War.
So where do we go from here? On the ground the Ukrainians are in desperate need of equipment, weapons and intelligence. They need more military aid. Poland is also shouldering a heavy burden and needs support, we must continue to advise and trade with both of these countries. Current sanctions from the West are not going far enough. The war is still going on. There is a grave lack of financial expertise in our intelligence service and the economic realities are incredibly multi-faceted. For Edward Lucas, all Russians should be banned from travelling to the West, the world’s cyber community needs to increase its pressure and we must become willing to face some discomfort in order to save lives. Sanctions still exclude oil and gas, we are effectively paying Russia to wage war on democracy.
Anne provided us with a succinct conclusion. The West needs to get clear on its goal. How do we want this conflict to end and what are we going to do to ensure that result? Ukraine should remain a sovereign democracy, with confidence that the Russians will not invade them again. We need to start planning for the end game.
Anne Applebaum, staff writer at The Atlantic, a fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and the author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism
Edward Lucas, writer and security specialist. He is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). He was formerly a senior editor at The Economist.
Michael Bociurkiw, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Global Affairs analyst and moderator of World Briefing series. (via Zoom from Lviv)
Sir Michael Fallon, politician and former Secretary of State for Defence from 2014 to 2017.
James Rodgers – Associate Professor in International Journalism at City University of London, academic, journalist and the author of Assignment Moscow: Reporting on Russia from Lenin
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