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Fighting Putin Means Coming to Grips With His All-or-Nothing Model

Fighting Putin Means Coming to Grips With His All-or-Nothing Model
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Getty Images)

Micah Halpern By Monday, 21 March 2022 10:29 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is wrong. It is illegal. It is to be condemned at every level.

The human tragedy, the senseless targeting, the killing of innocent civilians is a violation of international law. They are a war crime. Documenting each dastardly deed, counting each incident of death, recording the destruction are essentials — empowering us, the living, to remember and honoring those innocents who were killed and those landmarks that were destroyed.

Memory is important. I do not know if Putin will stand trial and be punished for his actions or whether his underlings and commanders will be held accountable. It is too soon and too fresh for us to know. Accountability and justice depend on several issues; the determination is always made after the fact.

One thing I do know with certainty is that this invasion, by Vladimir Putin and his minion army into Ukraine, is vastly different from other invasions.

Certainly, there are a handful of parallels with the Holocaust. But only a handful.

As the allies were tightening their noose and the War was all but over, Hitler committed suicide in his famous bunker alongside his paramour Eva Braun.

After the War there were a handful of trials. The Nuremberg Trial was the most famous, while the Soviets held a few trials of their own. By and large, however, War criminals were not help accountable for what they did.

And while Israel began a search for Nazis who were responsible for monstrous acts of mass murder, the search was laborious and took a very long time. The Eichmann Trial comes to mind.

So, the Holocaust does not offer us clues as to why this time, this invasion by Putin into Ukraine, is so very different.

The most important difference is that people are aware of what is happening in a world far away from them — both geographically and politically. The world is watching. Powerful people are watching — minute by minute, hour by hour, incident after incident, and they are getting involved. They are helping to protect the victims.

One can and should argue that more can and should be done. Yet help is arriving for Ukraine and for embattled Ukrainians and Ukrainian refugees. It is what good people do. They forge ahead and they help.

But the question has not yet been answered.

Why does the world, especially the United States, care about this atrocity perpetuated by Putin on Ukraine? Even with all the attention this invasion is generating, the overwhelming majority of Americans cannot find Ukraine on an unmarked map.

And eight years ago, when Putin walked into eastern Ukraine and then captured Crimea, the world, the United States included, remained virtually uninvolved and quiet. They knew it was happening and they did not get involved.

The entire episode from Russia’s first invasion of Crimea on February 20th to its annexation on March 25th, lasted one month and six days. And on March 29th, Crimea switched its clock from Crimean time to Moscow time.

The head of the Ukrainian navy in Crimea defected to Russia. So did most of the Ukrainian army that had been stationed in Crimea. One Russian soldier and two Ukrainian soldiers were killed. Over 16,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilian employees defected to Russia.

Russia’s taking of Donbas, which is the region composed of Donetsk and Luhansk, took a little longer. But again, very few people paid any attention. Preparations for this invasion began in April and June of 2014.

From July through September, Russia thoroughly out-classed and out-fought Ukraine in the Donbas region. During the battle about 400,000 Ukrainians were internally displaced. They moved westward to safer places in Ukraine far away, they thought, from Russian reach.

And nobody paid attention. No one volunteered to help.

The reasons this war, this invasion, this violation of the rules of war, has caught attention of the world and of the United States can be explained with two words. And those words are: Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

We care because Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes us care.

Zelenskyy is a dynamic, telegenic, popular personality who is taking his cause to the world and to the attention of world leaders and everyday citizens, alike.

And he is aided by a far more streamlined media than existed in 2014.

Today, people can and are, more willing to — more attuned to, paying attention to interruptions on their smartphones. They are accustomed to watching seven-second video news snippets and to reading two lines of headline.

Fundamentally, people — especially Americans, are decent and moral at their core. And they are repulsed by Putin’s decisions to indiscriminately bomb and kill Ukrainians and to destroy cities filled with innocent civilians.

Putin is an archetypical archvillain. Putin is the quintessential evil character. The Russian president makes it very easy to side with Zelenskyy and with Ukraine. Almost no one sides with Russia. When one side is so obviously wrong and evil it unites all those who care.

The issue becomes not whether to help, but how to help best. How to most effectively get that assistance to where it needs to go.

Unfortunately for Ukraine, Putin is using the models he created in Donbas and Crimea as his guide. In that way, his calculus is very simple. Vladimir Putin wants all or nothing. And Vladimir Putin will continue to pound Ukraine until he gets what he wants.

That will be the case until a new model emerges. And only Volodymyr Zelenskyy — during his lifetime or after his death, can make that happen.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.

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One thing I do know with certainty is that this invasion, by Vladimir Putin and his minion army into Ukraine, is vastly different from other invasions.
Monday, 21 March 2022 10:29 AM
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