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On Ukraine and ‘the most consequential war of our lifetimes’

Eliot A. Cohen, of The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, offers a smart overview of the state of the war. 

Destroyed buildings in Borodianka, Ukraine.
Destroyed buildings in Borodianka, Ukraine.
Polish Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

Just to say it plainly: I stand in awe of Ukraine and what its politicians and military leaders, and especially its soldiers (and civilians, too, of course), have accomplished in standing up against Vladimir Putin and the Russian military invasion.

I also stand humbled and embarrassed by the insignificance of the small obstacles I’ve faced in my charmed life, especially compared to those now being faced by the free people of the Ukraine. 

Those people, during the 1991 breakup of the former Soviet Union, adopted a legal declaration of independence, a move approved by 92 percent of the country’s voters. This was recognized and accepted by the former Soviet Union and the newly separated Republic of Russia. Perhaps you know this, but it seems to bear repeating. Ukraine gained its independence by legal means and by an overwhelming vote of its citizens, and accepted by Russia.

Therefore, the current military campaign by Russia to force Ukraine to rejoin the remaining Russian federation has no legal or democratic defense. It is a war of aggression by Russia, with no legal standing other than that of tanks and guns and soldiers. 

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(As you may know, Vladimir Putin takes the “position” that Ukraine never was and never could separate from Russia and that Ukrainians are more correctly understood, according to Putin, as a sort of off-brand kind of Russians and that, whatever Ukrainians think they are, they are Russians of a sort. This was the legal/historical/ethnic/bunkum justification for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.) 

Once it became clear that America and NATO was not to going to come to direct defense of Ukraine, I wouldn’t have taken a wager at 10-to-1 odds that Ukraine could withstand Putin’s despicable, unprovoked, unjustifiable, murderous campaign this long. The military success of Ukraine thus far has shocked the world.

As of now, it seems that Putin has (perhaps) all but given up on his initial intention of taking over the whole country, and is prepared to settle for a lesser theft of territory. The Ukrainians have certainly not accepted that lesser theft.

And the fighting and dying goes on. I check the latest development roughly every waking hour. I just read a smart overview of the state of the war by Eliot A. Cohen of The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, published by The Atlantic magazine. And the main purpose in this post, other than to express my clear horror at what Ukrainians are enduring and my deep contempt for everything Putin is saying and doing (or trying to do) in Ukraine, is to encourage you to read Cohen’s piece, which begins:  “For those of us born after World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetime.”

As Cohen writes: 

“Upon its outcome rests the future of European stability and prosperity. If Ukraine succeeds in preserving its freedom and territorial integrity, a diminished Russia will be contained; if it fails, the chances of war between NATO and Russia go up, as does the prospect of Russian intervention in other areas on its western and southern peripheries.”