Can We Afford NOT To Confront Putin Militarily?
I will understand that the overwhelming sentiment is that under no circumstances should we risk having American or NATO military confront the Russian military. The theory – or at least the fear – is that it would kick off a worldwide nuclear war.
As long as that is the mindset, does that mean that Russian saber-rattling paves the way for Putin’s endless wars of conquest? Is there no time that the free world will stand up to the Madman of Moscow in a more fundamental way?
Would the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine – even shooting down a few Russian planes if they violate the airspace — cause Putin to launch a mutually destructive nuclear attack on Ukraine … Europe … the United States? If he did, it would certainly be the end of his dream of a pan-world Russian empire – and the end of him.
If we did come into conflict with Russian military, it would not be the first time – and it did not trigger a nuclear war in the past. It did not even trigger much of a reaction.
There were two incidents in Syria that are revelatory. You should recall when Russian generals ordered American planes out of Syrian air space – a no-fly zone, as it were. We rejected the demand and maintained flying.
There was also a time when American forces were attacked in Syria by a Russian unit. In that case, the American military wiped out the Russian unit. There was hardly a stir in the diplomatic community – and no threats of nuclear warfare.
We also had an incident when Libya claimed more than a three-mile limit into the Mediterranean Sea. When Libya sent fighter jets to challenge American ships inside the claimed 10-mile zone, President Reagan ordered the planes to be shot down. What was significant is that Russian pilots were often flying those jets for Libya and there was no way to tell if they were in those targeted planes.
In a conversation I later had with the Russian ambassador, the fact that Reagan was willing to take out the menace regardless, sent a chill through the Kremlin leadership. Rather than threats of nuclear war, the Russians became more restrained for a while.
I am not recommending a no-fly zone – or that we should not carefully consider any ramifications of a military confrontation with Russia. But I do believe that we must do everything possible to ensure that Putin does not win his war on Ukraine – not even temporarily.
In return for giving up their nuclear capabilities – the only nation ever to do so – we promised the people of Ukraine that we would protect their interests from the Russian bear. Obviously, we are failing to keep that promise.
There is every reason to believe that any measure of Russian success in Ukraine will only embolden Putin’s ambition to re-take more of the old Soviet Union. At some point, we are going to have to determine that NOT confronting Putin is greater than the risk of confrontation.
That time should have been when he invaded Georgia … or took the Crimea. This is not his first invasion of Ukraine – albeit his most aggressive. The world cannot always let the threat – the intimidation – of a nuclear response allow Putin to continue grab of independent democratic nations like Minnesota Fats would run a pool table.
I do not really have an answer to the headline question, but I do think acquiescence under Putin’s threats is not working – and will not work.
So, there ‘tis.