The New Republic - February 24, 2022
Wednesday night, Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. In scenes reminiscent of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s and the American “shock and awe” campaign against Iraq, modern cities across Ukraine were enveloped in explosions and smoke plumes from missile and rocket attacks. It is an unmitigated tragedy and one that will likely cause grievous and needless suffering for the Ukrainian people, who have done nothing to deserve their current fate.
It is also an admission of failure by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In going to war against Ukraine, Putin has tacitly acknowledged that Russia’s multiyear policy of coercion and bullying of Kyiv has failed. Russia’s hopes of keeping Ukraine in its sphere of influence without the use of military force have been dashed. The next few days and weeks will be ones of calamity and devastation. Our TV screens will be filled with the images of innocent civilians fleeing a Russian military onslaught and of Ukrainian soldiers who gave their last full measure of devotion. These will be tough to watch, as will images of a “victorious” Putin preening around the Kremlin. But make no mistake—Russia has already lost.
Putin’s failure dates back to eight years ago this month. Then, Ukrainians rose up en masse and deposed the country’s pro-Russian president, Victor Yanukovych, in the so-called Maidan Revolution. Weeks later, Putin sought to coerce Ukraine back into the Russian orbit. He seized and annexed Crimea and then launched a proxy war in Eastern Ukraine, which has continued for nearly eight years.
That led to the Minsk II Accords, intended to give pro-Russian Ukrainians greater autonomy in the country’s politics. But Putin’s moves had the opposite effect. Ukraine not only dragged its feet on implementation of the agreement but actively resisted Russia’s efforts to lure the nation back into Moscow’s orbit. Amazingly, Putin was the most popular politician in Ukraine in 2014, and few Ukrainians were interested in the country joining NATO. Now NATO membership has majority support and Putin’s popularity has, understandably, plummeted. ...
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