The Vladimir Putin who wrote this New York Op Ed on the Syria Crisis located here has decided to comment on the actions of Vladimir Putin, who has invaded Ukraine.
Recent events surrounding Ukraine have prompted me to speak directly to the Russian people and my future self, Vladimir Putin. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between the United States and Russia. Relations between the two have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the Cold War. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization, the United Nations, was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only be consensus, and with Russia’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Ukraine’s borders. Annexation of the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine the efforts to end the Cold War and cause an arms race and further destabilize the Caucasus region. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.
Ukraine is not witnessing a battle for democracy now, but a fight for it’s independence and very survival. There are few champions of any part of Ukraine separating or being annexed by Russia. But there are more than enough nations and groups opposed to this move that, in the long run, it will be very expensive to the Russian Federation. The United States and Europe will impose sanctions, relations with China will suffer, and an already fragile Russian economy will be brought to the brink.
Also a concern is if Russia should be allowed to successfully annex Ukraine, won’t it signal to other nations to do the same? Might not other countries with the experience they’ve acquired from Ukraine’s crisis attempt their own annexations using the same arguments the Russian Federation has used? After all, aren’t there large ethnic populations of both Pakistan and India living in Kashmir? This threatens us all.
From the outset, the United States has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling the Ukrainians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. They are not protecting or justifying a Ukrainian coup, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.
No one doubts that a revolution occurred in Ukraine and that there is an element of the government that is composed of far-right wing nationalist. But there is every reason to believe that this new government will uphold the principles of democracy discarded by the previous Yanuksovych government as well as it’s agreements with Russia.
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for Russia. Is it in Russia’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see Russia not as a model of a Christian nation, but as relying solely on brute force, desperately trying to cobble together a forgotten empire under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”
But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Chechnya is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after Russian forces withdraw. Georgia is seething and another war over South Ossetia is an ever present possibility. In Russia itself, terrorist bombings have become common place. In the Russian Federation, many draw an analogy between Georgia and Chechnya, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.
No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.
The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.
We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.
A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The Russian Federation, the United States and all members of the international community must take advantage of the new Ukrainian government’s willingness to negotiate a settlement and secure both Russia’s access to her bases and protection for the Russian ethnic population.
If we can avoid annexation of Ukraine, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.
My working and personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his speeches he’s made over the last few weeks. And I would rather disagree with a case he made that Ukraine’s new government is illegitimate, stating that the new Ukrainian government was really a coup. It is extremely dangerous to declare a government in the process of revolution, illegitimate simply because they contain elements you disagree with. There are governments that are liberal and conservative, pro West and pro East, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.