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Less than a week has passed since Vladimir Putin launched its brutal blitzkrieg offensive to take over Ukraine. There is a reason why the glorious Ukrainian flag still flies in Kyiv and other major cities in that country of heroes. Most media pundits, democratic governments, socialist accomplices, and academics had little hope that the sovereign government of Volodymyr Zelensky would survive. The military power, truth be told, made betting on an early Russian victory a more plausible bet. No one expected this war of David and Goliath to have lasted so long. Captive nations like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, and Bolivia (to name a few) can learn a lot from Ukraine’s resistance experience. Here are six points that freedom fighters around the globe should take note of.
Pacifism and civil disobedience have severe limits
In republics with consensual systems of government, civil disobedience is a remarkable weapon to provoke political change. Free and fair elections also facilitate valid modes of civic expression and civil society activism. In tyrannical regimes—especially of the totalitarian type—actions of civil disobedience and peaceful protests which are unaccompanied with actual or potential belligerent deportment, usually yield little results of systemic change.
Soviet communism fell, along with its socialist-block European satellites because there was a Cold War that got much warmer when the Reagan Administration ditched containment and reverted to a state policy of rolling back socialism. Ukrainians are combating the enemy with lethal arms and not protest signs.
The importance of the Second Amendment in the U.S.
If anyone doubts the importance of the American constitutional notion for “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” Ukraine is a stern example. Tyrants like an unarmed citizenry. Monopolizing weapons only for political actors in power is a huge mistake. Republican self-government schemes work best when those that govern have something to fear of the governed.
Sanctions work when comprehensively applied
Do not believe the moral relativists, commercial vultures, or utopian laissez-faire radicals, when they tell you that sanctions do not work. They definitely do—when applied consistently and in an integrated manner. The end of South Africa’s apartheid can best be explained by the thorough international campaign to isolate the racist government.
The American embargo on the Cuban communist regime is an example of a sound moral policy in which politicians have weakened it throughout the years, denying its full potential for success. The fact that the U.S. has not materially internationalized the sanctions against the island’s Marxist dictatorship is another reason why it has not had the impact that it could. What the democratic world is doing to the Putin regime is a step in the right direction. It needs only to intensify the strategy.
Engagement-type, “reset” policies do not work with tyrants
Former President Barack Obama, from day one of his presidency, made his mea culpa doctrine the official mantra of his foreign policy. America’s worst enemies—namely Iran, Cuba, China, North Korea, and Russia—according to the Obama foreign policy, were antagonistic because of the United States’ perceived superiority complex (Obama rejects American exceptionalism) and its “aggressive” behavior. With the Putin regime, Obama announced its “reset” in 2009, by way of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an awkward and cartoonish ceremony where Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was presented with a red “reset button” representing the false perception of improved ties.
Putin enjoyed a bonanza of international power consolidation under Obama’s watch. The 2009 decision to scrap Europe’s missile defense shield program, which was underway since 2007, left Europe unprotected. The Syrian “red line” bluff statement, served to aggrandize Russian imperial activism with its rescue of the Assad dictatorship, in partnership with Iran in 2012. The criminal annexation of Crimea and the failed Minsk agreements (2014), which sought to stop Russian expansion in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, were mockingly violated from the onset. Russia’s 2011 entry into the World Trade Organization was facilitated by the 44th president. Obama embodied an “engagement” approach to Russian tyranny. It failed, as have all détente-like policies with the regimes of Russia, Cuba, China, and Iran.
The myth of immutability
Monsters tend to build myths around themselves. Putin, like his Soviet predecessors, formulated a false image of strength, competency, and invincibility. Politicians like Obama and Germany’s Angela Merkel helped project this fallacy with their appositeness postures. Ukraine has, so far, demonstrated that Putin’s Russia is a paper tiger, as Mao once quipped about the United States. This does not mean that it is not a killing machine. The fact that Ukrainians have effectively frustrated what many thought would be a walk in the park and managed to levy great pain to Russians in the battleground testifies to the power of right makes might and heroism is a game-changer.
Courageous leadership inspires a valiant citizenry
Zelensky is the 21st-century embodiment of Winston Churchill. Curiously, Putin is a cross between Adolf Hitler on his Lebensraum diatribe and Joseph Stalin on nationalism (“socialism in one country”). The enormous sacrifice being exercised by Ukrainians in the defense of their fatherland has been stimulated greatly by the nation’s leadership. Weakness, cowardice, and vacillation only invite aggression from your enemies. Ukraine’s resistance and determination to be free and independent is not contingent on whether Putin captures Kyiv or not. The heroic fight will go on. A war of liberation will ensue.
Ukraine has done much to elevate the democratic ethos. It has reminded us of the need for heroism, and armed campaigns searching for freedom. Bullies are predatory and thrive on weakness and limited endeavors of defense. Captive nations can and must learn from what is happening in Eastern Europe. Thank you, Ukraine! We stand with you!
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.