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How The West Got Russia So Wrong — And Keeps Getting It Wrong

Ukrainian President Zelensky's belief that Russia's invasion has nullified both European and global security should not be taken lightly. Everything must be rebuilt — and must happen much faster than Western leaders seem prepared to do. A view from Kyiv-based news media Livy Bereg.

photo of a man with a beard holding a ukrainian flag

A Ukraine supporter in Madrid

Carlos Lujü¡N/Contacto via ZUMA
Oleksandr Demchenko


KYIV — The world finds itself at war more often than not. The relatively peaceful respite that followed the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, and the fall of the Soviet Union were exceptions, not the norm.

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World War I led to revolutions. The emergence of new dictatorial regimes gradually brought us to World War II. After 1945, the victors divided Europe into pieces, and then divided themselves into blocs, leading to the emergence of zones of influence around the world.

Two camps — the democratic West and the communist East — fought, in sometimes cold, sometimes warm, blood for global domination, new relations. All the while this fueled regional conflicts: Iran, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan — the list goes on and on.

It's about territorial expansion, not capital

After the overthrow of the USSR, the West relaxed: Russia was weak for a long time and needed huge financial interventions. It was dependent. But all leaders, beginning from Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, to the current one Vladimir Putin, sought one thing: to restore the empire and, consequently, to deprive the former Soviet republics of independence and sovereignty.

The world turned a blind eye throughout Moscow’s preparation: it did not believe that Russia, which had gained access to Western goods, finance, services and technology, could start a major war in Europe or undermine the continental and global security system. The civilized world did not understand that expansion, and not capital, was most important in Russia’s eyes.

Now we appear to find ourselves somewhere between 1938 and 1939.

Moscow was ruthless in its search for oil and gas: Moldova, Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine. Over time, the Russian Federation slowly but defiantly expanded its borders. And now we appear to find ourselves somewhere between 1938 and 1939 — between the taking of Czechoslovakia and the beginning of World War II.

The only thing that saves the world in this situation is not the West or Europe, but Ukrainians — those who did not want to obey, who did not want to be "one people" and refused to capitulate with any agreements or pacts.

Ukrainians: the people who stopped the Russian blitzkrieg, who, to the surprise of the whole Western world, showed that it would not give up its independence and would not allow itself to be belittled by Russian condescension and violence.

Putin wanted sanctions

What about the West? They continue playing catch-up and trying to restrain Russia with sanctions. But they hesitate — and because of this, they remain weak. They are afraid to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, not realizing that after Ukraine, it will be the turn of Eastern European NATO countries. And then, God-forbid, the whole of Europe.

What the West doesn’t realize is that Putin wants sanctions. And the tougher they are, the better. Because he seeks to recreate the empire, he wants the Soviet Union to be reborn in 2022, a hundred years after its foundation.

And for it to re-emerge, it needs an obedient, poor population and a zero-sum environment that has no resources. Those Russians with means are already leaving their country. Some are taking to the streets, but there remains an obedient silent majority, which is Putin’s prize possession.

He lacks only one thing, though — the enslavement of Ukraine .

Putin and World War II veterans

Photo of Putin shaking hands with a World War II veteran

Putin greets World War II veterans before the start of the annual Victory Day military parade in Red Square May 9, 2019 in Moscow.

Aleksey Nikolskyi/Planet Pix via ZUMA

The floundering West

And what about the West? They remain floundering, speechless and afraid of the Russian ruler. There is an obvious strategy to their actions: to delay the Russian offensive on the territory of Ukraine for as long as possible, to deal a significant blow to the Russian economy in order to prevent Russia from advancing deeper into the continent. Europe is taking time for itself.

Naive and cowardly, they do not understand that security no longer exists, that instead everything has been annulled — the UN Security Council, where Russia has a veto; the helpless OSCE, which is corrupted by Russian agencies; incompetent NATO, whose members are on the verge of an unfathomable war. But instead of acting, they hesitate on whether or not to give planes to Ukraine.

The arguments rarely go further than the negotiating table. And the European Union, which even now is still afraid of running out of Russian energy, is in no particular hurry to withdraw its companies from the Russian market.

The world is beginning to disperse into small situational alliances.

Europe was saved after the flames of World War II and the heat of the Cold War through its unification. However, it is naive to hope that in such a revanchist Russia, the continent will be protected from another military crisis. And now Europe is beginning to boil over.

Against the background of Russia's actions, authoritarian regional forces around the world are becoming more active, just waiting to seize a piece of territory, weaken the enemy, and challenge "hostile" values. Radical movements are intensifying, trying to revive forgotten evil principles on the European continent.

The world is beginning to disperse into small situational alliances, losing the key of unity. It may well be rediscovered, along with new organizations, large alliances and international law. The question is: when will this happen? They could start today — and save millions of lives. Or they could wait, and just hope it’s not too late.

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