No one thought that Russia would actually invade Ukraine and unleash a bloody war against its population. It has already killed hundreds of innocent people and daily shells against civilian residential areas. Just yesterday, Vladimir Putin’s army fired on a bridge that was being used by civilians to evacuate the city of Kyiv. It killed four people, including a girl and a teenager.
The fierce advance of Putin’s troops, which has been met by the steadfastness of the heroic resistance of Volodymyr Zelensky‘s troops, has pushed the West into one of the most difficult dilemmas of modern times. However courageously the Ukrainians resist, they are unlikely to surpass the capabilities of the Russian army. So far, the resistance succeeded in thwarting Putin’s plans to take over the entire country in a matter of hours. Of course, this has shaken the whole world and we have been amazed by Ukrainian prowess; but let’s face it: Putin has the second most powerful army in the world.
Still, Russia does not deploy all its military capabilities in Ukraine, surely because it thought it would be much easier to take over the country. He is surely frustrated and has realized that he has made a mistake, but he has long since reached the point of no return. For Vladimir Putin, there is no alternative: it is winning or winning. The possibility of defeat is not on the table, even if at means devastating the world first.
Ukraine alone cannot stop Putin, but the West certainly can. Russia is the second most powerful army in the world, but it is supported by a fragile economy, much smaller than that of a state like Texas, and does not have the capacity to face large armies like the American, the French or the British (much less together). However, so far, NATO armies have been very clear that they will only support by sending arms and ammunition, but not troops. No country has the slightest intention of getting caught up in a war with Putin.
Since the resistance began, Zelensky — who has built a stirring epic with his will, dedication and courage — has been asking the world to support him. His cry is a call to the conscience of all of us, who are dragging the shame of seeing once again how a criminal and imperialist power brutally devours a country of free and democratic people. In one of his last broadcasts, he told the presidents of the Western world: “If you don’t, if you don’t give us at least planes so we can protect ourselves, there’s only one thing to conclude: you want us to be killed very slowly.”
As harsh as it is, the world continues to stand idly by. The pleas of Zelensky, who sees his civilian population annihilated in the most savage way possible on a daily basis, find no echo. Ultimately, he is right: the West has left Ukraine alone. NATO will not intervene, as far as it has transpired as inoperative; and, meanwhile, Putin has a free hand to commit whatever crimes he pleases.
In particular, why? Well, because Vladimir Putin sits on 5,977 nuclear warheads. Period. There is no other reason.
With the invasion of Ukraine, we are now clear that the West faces an implacable and reckless enemy. Many have underestimated Putin and his ability to commit any folly. At this point, to consider that the Kremlin would be incapable of using its nuclear weaponry is naïve. The reality is that Putin is capable of anything.
A couple of days ago I was talking to the prestigious professor Uzi Rabi, from Tel Aviv University. His prognosis is not encouraging. Probably, the inevitable will happen in Ukraine. But that is not the most serious thing, but that the West will allow it to happen. It could willingly sacrifice Ukraine, Zelensky and his brave resistance by betting that Vladimir Putin will be satiated.
“The attitude on the part of the West is understood by the dictators in a way that is very negative,” Rabi told me. “It is very important for the dictator to know that there is a limit to his actions; otherwise he will move forward freely. The moral is that only nuclear weapons protect you. Without trying to compare them morally, first it happened to Saddam Hussein; then to Qaddafi and, now, Zelensky.”
It’s clear. Whether you are a dictator or a democrat like Zelensky, only nuclear weapons protect you from external threats. Dictators have fallen because they had the will to develop nuclear weapons and others have remained intact, with a free hand to invade other countries, because they already possess nuclear weapons. The most embarrassing thing is that today Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons, not because of its enemies, but because of its supposed allies.
In 1994, the United States and Great Britain persuaded Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees. Before the so-called Budapest Memorandum was signed, Ukraine had some 1,800 nuclear warheads. Under pressure, and taking advantage of the prestige following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States got Ukraine to return all its nuclear weapons to Russia with the assurance that the West would act “immediately to provide assistance to Ukraine in the event of an act of aggression.”
Clearly, the West betrayed Ukraine. And today, it leaves it alone, embarrassing itself once again. Watching from afar as Vladimir Putin executes in Ukraine a “slow-motion genocide,” as my friend Diego Arria would say. Will the West stoop so low and sacrifice Ukraine? Everything indicates that it has already made its decision.