Stopping Bloodshed in Ukraine

There is a lot of misunderstanding on the part of the US of Russia’s intent. First, many people in the US still believe that Russia is communist. It hasn’t been for over 30 years since 1991, when the flag with the sickle and hammer was lowered. The Soviet Union was considered to be an acceptable solution to world war Il. There is no way that people should be considering world war lll over a potential russian invasion of ukraine. The Ukrainians speak Russian in addition to Ukranian. They share a common history.

Putin does not want to rebuild the Soviet empire. He wants security, and he believes that maintaining some level of control in Ukraine will help Russian security. Is he likely to feel more or less secure with the buildup of troops (NATO or US or EU)?

So Putin flushed out NATO. He had simply asked that Ukraine not become a NATO ally, to avoid the exact positioning of forces directed toward Russia that NATO has recently done. So we are now at a standoff with billions of dollars invested in destroying one another.

What Russia will not gain is strength with an invasion of Ukraine. There is too much insurgency. Security, yes; strength, no. He will always have to invest a lot of resources to maintain influence, there. If Western forces do not invest in destabilizing the area, which after all, does speak Russian in addition to Ukrainian, the Ukrainians will be much more likely to get what they want in the long run. Remember, we are talking about people losing their fathers, sons, brothers, here. It isn’t an abstract struggle.

All Ukraine has to say is: Ukraine will not become a part of NATO in the next 50 years. Is that too much to ask for us all to be able to relax again?

Apparently yes. So lots of lives invested, here. I say the smart thing to do now is to say to Putin: “ok, if you want to invade Ukraine, go ahead.” No immediate reprisal. Threats aren’t working. He can’t buy goodwill, though. He looks like he wins, but he will have no good credit with anyone in NATO in the end, unless, given respect for his strength & ability to stand up to NATO, he chooses peace instead.

NATO is the problem. I think the only possible aversion to war is for NATO to back off. NATO is what infuriates Putin to the point of complete disregard for all of Europe (and the US). Are the Crimeans that unhappy under Russian rule? At most, we are talking about less than the afghan war (20 years) of some part of eastern europe under a government that is distasteful. I say avoid the loss of life. NATO has already taken on more than it can defend without great catastrophe. Putin can win by showing that NATO can’t honor its obligations, or he can win by weakening NATO militarily. When the letters start having to be sent home to the families of fallen soldiers and innocent victims, will there be an acknowledgement that these people died because of our pride?

So Putin, in a moment of fury, “purchased” a part of Ukraine on the world market, giving up the pipeline with his closest European ally, terrifying his neighbors, and losing a lot of goodwill and trust in his show of strength. Did he intend to do it all along? He cannot, I repeat, cannot be the enemy if this situation is to resolve well. We need to sit down and respectfully listen to what he wants, not in exchange for good behavior on his part, but because thousands of lives are at stake.

Making him mad does not bring out his better side. Respect might. Still, the situation that we are dealing with now is “0 trust”. Statements need to be followed by actions that correspond to the statements. That will be progress. Not threats, but “I will do this in the name of peace.” Ukrainian lives matter, Russian lives matter, European lives matter, American lives matter.

The Ukrainians cannot defend themselves. Their military will be crushed and/or broken in political prisons. Putin could have chosen peace and respect, he chose war instead. I don’t think he has thought of a political way out of this situation.

Assuming that we are dealing with Putin, and not a Russian military coup, we are still confronted with an incident that, although premeditated, has, thus far, cost less than many natural disasters, and been targeted to the military.

In my opinion, the correct response is not broad sanctions, but rather sanctions that proportionately weaken Russia’s military. Someone needs to invent a switch so that, for example, only 1 in 5 Russian arms is capable of firing.

Major Elliott Garrett, an American journalist who is chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, states (with certainty), “Ukraine is a sovereign country invaded by a hostile neighbor.” I think that, for Putin, and many Russians, the USSR is very much intertwined with Russian identity. The USSR was a state that formed after the Russian revolution in 1917 and ensuing three year civil war. Encompassing what was formerly the Russian Empire, it was initially a confederation of the states of Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine and modern day Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. This history may help us to understand why Putin is willing to pay such a high price, and why he perceives foreign intervention, in what in his mind is a civil war, to be so wrong.

If there is any insight in this, it may be that Putin may not feel the same way about Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary. Indeed the army is not positioned for invasion of these countries.

If the frame of reference remains civil (war), and the Ukrainians move toward guerilla tactics, then the conflict could be a long and protracted one as in Afghanistan with a puppet government likely already promised to someone by Putin. The immediate concern is for the safety and welfare of Zelenskyy and his military. The less said, the better. They should go underground like David did when he fled to the mountains.

I still am not entirely convinced that Putin hasn’t been replaced by a bot that is channeling Stalin… He needs to do something that Stalin would never do. He needs to show a more human side in the middle of what has been the greatest political catastrophe since WW2 in light of what is happening to his country. In any situation (& with a little creativity it is generally possible), it is usually better to have friends. Autocracy has its place when situations devolve to the point where people cannot work or go to school or safely travel. Still, Putin has virtually guaranteed that Ukrainian people will never be Russian. The hatred has boiled over because of the use of force.

So now the Ukrainians are left with 2 immediate concerns:
1) how to stop a tank (fuel pump switch?)
2) how to stop a car from deploying an oxygen-consuming bomb (fuel pump switch?)

A survival plan may involve the separation & preservation of Ukrainian cultural identity from its historical attachment to place. When most of the Ukrainians are gone, the land will be populated by militant Russians, and will be the “Ukraine” that Putin/Stalin, or whoever is running the show over there, wants. Russia will increase in land mass by 3% – an increase that will allow it to feed itself and get energy.

What a miserable way to treat people! Are we really no better than that? Were we not given so much to have so little to offer to those who want/need something from us? Who gives up their friends & neighbors for this price?

Ok. So a little progress, at least the two sides are talking with clearly arguable demands. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed Russia’s demands to end the conflict [1]:

  1. Ukraine halt its military activity.
  2. Ukraine change its Constitution to include neutrality so it can’t join the EU or NATO
  3. Ukraine recognize Crimea as Russian territory and
  4. Ukraine recognize independence for the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

At least Russia is not asking for complete disarmament. That would be stupid and unrealistic given what has just happened. Generally, the Ukrainians are a peace-loving people. They at one time held the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, and have dismantled their arsenal and become signatories to the Treaty for the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons[2].

I can’t help but notice how the Ukrainians are being transformed into Syrians. And then even darker into Darfurian refugees, hungry, without water or electricity, but thankfully not yet so desperate that they are willing to risk bullets to escape.

I think point 2 should be worth serious consideration in exchange for peace. The country is salvaged from further bombing. People can be Ukrainian, return home, sow their land, feed their families, rebuild their homes, go back to school.

No one should get more by war than they can get with peace. Wouldn’t the Ukrainians rather have their very popular leader?

I would think even points 3 & 4 could be on the table in exchange for the complete removal of every Russian soldier and intelligence officer from the rest of Ukraine, the establishment of a no-fly zone, and other concessions.

So in the heat of battle, the rhetoric can get pretty inflamed, and it can lead to a lot of public grandiose statements on all sides. this makes it difficult to talk rationally about a settlement because all sides are out of touch with how small and alike they actually are. Russia – Ukraine is a Syrian Arab Spring scaled up, complete with a leader that many feel is no longer viable on a world stage. We said that about Bashar Al Assad, too.

Putin’s Russia was the best Russia most of us have known – open, economically engaged, in its better moments, compassionate to the suffering of others. Putin is not Russia, yet it is difficult to imagine a stable Russia without him. At heart, I believe that he will always put Russia first, but his Russia has now become a spartan isolationist one – one whose power cannot be trusted.

Still, the man and country are not defined by one deed or even this war, as horrific as it has been.

And, what was a NATO base doing in Western Ukraine, anyway? The same is of course asked of the invading Russian troops invited in by the two colonized “independent” states.

Peace must be made over the ruined country. Enough arguing about world image and principled speech when the arguing translates into dead bodies.

While I completely support de-escalation of the armed conflict to prevent it from greater world catastrophe, if the anger doesn’t translate into arms, it seems to go to labels and ultimatums. The irony is the more lives are lost, the more there seems to be a need to justify the loss of life. It took us 50 years to break down the wall. An isolated Russia or an isolated Putin are not steps in the right direction.

Still, we will not fund war. Many times the decision to fight is motivated by the difference between change that could happen overnight vs. change that could happen over years. Put the element of time into the peace negotiations. Putin may not be acting right at this point, but we still should have respect for what he has accomplished in the past.

Have both sides come up with their respective plans for peace, and then have 3 independent plans for peace be drawn up based upon the original 2 proposals by arbitrators, one chosen by each side, and then 1 agreed upon by the arbitrators. For example, peace plans could be proposed by China, Israel, and Mexico. Then have both sides choose which of the plans they like best.

Finally, make a line with one plan at either end & a marker in the middle (or a 5 point star.) Each life that is lost moves the marker against the party responsible for the loss of that life. A computer program can then decide what 50% looks like, what 60% plan A or B looks like, 75% plan A or B looks like, etc.

It is time to get real, here. On both sides. Ukraine won’t cede any territory to Russia, but it is sending 1/4 of its population to foreign lands in a state of utter desperation. Russia, on the other hand, does not want peace otherwise it would be talking to Zelenskyy. It can’t envision a “new Russia” with him in the picture. Russia wants respect. And because so much was not negotiated in good faith, but rather taken as in Georgia and Chechnya, we are now confronted with that model as a minimum, and at the maximum, a renegotiation and honoring of the original agreement (in writing?) that NATO would not expand into the Eastern block.

The fact that the narrative that is being spewed by the authority structures on both sides is so disconnected means the iron curtain has once again fallen. What is supposed to happen? Peace and then apology for the wrong story? No. It will be 2 different worlds for a while now.

Putin, or the Kremlin, is redoing the 2nd WW when Ukraine was occupied by the Nazis.

Biden shows up in Poland. I have so much respect for his heart, being so willing to be so close to the conflict, to see with his very own eyes. His achilles heel however is a tendency to see things in black and white. In his eyes, there are real enemies, people not like us who are incapable of change, who need to be removed.

It is true, the world has been changed like it has not been since wwII. It will be a long time before we will trust again. We will now have militaries to defend against imagined tyrannies or loss of country name. Hopefully they will not fall into unstable hands. Nonviolence did not win. In reality, because of the escalation, it could have ended up as ethnic extermination – at least locally. It remains so easy to harness man’s territorial assertions of identity into aggression toward one another. That said, countries are different, and no one man can be responsible in a war between two peoples.

Progress in peace talks should have small goals: 1) the ability to agree on sentences where both countries are mentioned in the same sentence in a way that makes them both happy. 2) the ability to agree on sentences where both countries exist in isolation if deemed necessary. They should end with 3 small steps. For example, 3 completely demilitarized areas, a 3% reduction in arms on both sides, food and water for 3 weeks to both sides.

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