Ukraine should not become a sacrificial lamb to Putin for our illusion of peace

By Ariana Gic, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, and Roman Sohn for Euromaidan Press.

On March 11, two days after Russia deliberately struck a maternity hospital in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, President Joe Biden drew a red line in the sand: “I want to be clear,” he tweeted, “[NATO] will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine.”

With one fell swoop, the President of the United States signaled a morally indefensible limit on support for Ukraine.

The refusal to implement a critically needed No Fly Zone over Ukraine, regardless of what atrocious crimes Russia commits, invited Moscow to do its worst.

Five days after Biden’s tweet, Russian forces deliberately bombed a theater in Mariupol with two huge markings clearly visible from the sky spelling “CHILDREN” in Russian. The theater was the city’s largest shelter with hundreds trapped inside at the time of bombing. The exact number of casualties is not known.

This is the real-life cost of NATO’s refusal to take meaningful action to protect civilians in Ukraine from Russia’s terrorist tactics, as NATO’s involvement is the only actionable way to stop Moscow’s unfolding genocide in Ukraine in the immediate future.

Regardless, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz echoed Biden’s sentiment the very next day after the Mariupol theater attack.

On the same day as civilians in Mariupol’s theater and other shelters were dying from Russian shelling, thousands of kilometers away, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its order for Russia to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine.

The court’s order is the second key decision by the international organization demanding Russia stop its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine.

Earlier, on March 2, the United Nations General Assembly, in a vote with overwhelming support, demanded that Moscow must immediately completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from Ukraine.

Considering Russia’s veto in the United Nations Security Council, there is no other actionable international force except NATO to intervene in Ukraine to implement the will of the global international community to repress Russian aggression. The longer Moscow is allowed to drop dumb bombs and use precision missiles to level Ukrainian cities, the greater the scale and cost of destruction will be to the path of NATO’s involvement.

NATO has to face stark reality: either it embraces its moral mission to act, thereby redefining itself for the twenty first century, or it will continue to decline as an artifact of the Cold War.

By not protecting Ukrainian civilians, NATO is putting Kyiv in a position where it will ultimately have no choice but to concede to some form of capitulation to Moscow, and possibly partition the country as the only way to halt the mass slaughter of civilians and total destruction of the country.

It cannot be ignored that Moscow’s demands of Kyiv are not just unlawful – they embody Putin’s vision of destroying the sovereign Ukrainian nation.

Moscow’s demands of “demilitarizing” and “neutralizing” Ukraine are totally fabricated justifications for its invasion. Conceding to these demands means making Ukraine absolutely defenseless against Putin’s inevitable next attempt to conquer Ukraine in short time.

Ukrainians are fighting fiercely and heroically to defend their nation because it is an existential fight. They also know that if we do not help them to defeat Russia as it tries to annihilate them, that peace and security will be shattered not only in Ukraine, but fully destroyed for the rest of us as well.

Any “concessions for peace” – anything short of unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces from all of Ukraine’s territory – would be a defeat of Ukraine and of the international community. It would not be a viable peace settlement. Such an approach will achieve nothing other than embolden Putin’s regime to continue its aggressive pursuits around the world.

It is very simple: there can be no peace if we allow “might makes right” to trample the rule-based international order which works in the security interests of every nation.

Citizens of NATO countries may not have Russian bombs on their heads, but we should not mistake their absence for the illusion of peace – an illusion that can be shattered by Putin at any moment. The pattern of Moscow’s growing aggression clearly indicates that Russia is determined to seek the destruction of the Western-dominated rule-based international order.

Putin is attempting genocide in Ukraine in plain sight for all to see. He has not been deterred by (belated) Western sanctions, by the condemnation of the United Nations, the decision of the ICJ, or expulsion from the Council of Europe. Rather the contrary, with Russian brutality increasing by the day.

It is clear as day that Putin has made his decision to turn Russia into an outlaw state, a renewed “Evil Empire” of the twenty first century which opposes the whole free world. That is why no concessions to Russia at the expense of Ukraine can make our world safer.

Ukraine must not be another sacrificial lamb to Moscow for our illusion of peace.

Sacrificing Ukraine will not buy time for the West to weaken Russia and prepare for confrontation – Putin already signaled that he is going to retaliate. It is only logical he would want to do that sooner rather than wait for Western sanctions to undermine Russia’s economy.

Concessions and half-measures are not even band-aid solutions anymore – only shameful, self-defeating failure. We must do better and provide the robust military support Ukraine needs, starting with a No Fly Zone. If we do not want to live in the dangerous and violent world of “might makes right,” there is no other option than Russian defeat.

Ariana Gic, writer and political and legal analyst, Director, Direct Initiative International Centre for Ukraine. Follow her on twitter: @GicAriana

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze is a Ukrainian MP, Chair of Parliamentary Committee on Ukraine’s Integration into the EU, former Deputy Prime-Minister for European and Euroatlantic Integration of Ukraine (2016-2019). Follow her on twitter: @IKlympush

Roman Sohn, author, legal expert, Chairman, Direct Initiative International Centre for UkraineRoman Sohn is an author, legal expert, Chairman, Direct Initiative International Centre for Ukraine. Follow him on twitter: @RomanSohn