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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Defending the truth, not Russia

With more than a trifle of trepidation, I recently read Trevor Lwere’s column on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a history major, I heard the echoes of cowardly collaborationist quibbling from the dark days of 1940. Regrettably, Mr. Lwere’s article sought to throw the blame for the catastrophic war in Ukraine into the lap of the United States and Kyiv. Conscious therefore of my major’s commitment to the truth, and as a peace-loving citizen of the international community, I have taken pen in hand to counter this perilous reasoning. Although free to express his opinion, there are several points on which I fundamentally disagree with Mr. Lwere. First is his erroneous suggestion that this conflict began in February of this year. The so-called “threat posed by Ukraine’s defense program to Moscow” is not some Ukrainian delusion of military grandeur. Kyiv’s pre-invasion military build-up was a defensive reflex of a country already at war. Russia started this conflict. That is a fact. Moscow did so back in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea. Ukraine has been at war with Russia for eight years, as Putin hives off the Donbas. Surely, Russia’s theft of Crimea after the Maidan Revolution, à la the Anschluss of 1938, ought to throw the “principle of indivisible security” out the window? By Mr. Lwere’s own argument, Russia sought to expand its security at the expense of Ukraine’s. Therefore, Ukraine has every right to self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. The principle of indivisible security no longer applies in Ukraine. Since 2014, Ukraine has had a legitimate cause to protect itself, by any means necessary. Russia sacrificed any claim to “security concerns” when its troops occupied Crimea. Secondly, Mr. Lwere’s selective citation of international laws to defend the indefensible, overlooks Ukraine’s legal status. Moscow’s decision to undermine Ukraine in Crimea and the Donbas flagrantly violates the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Signed between Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, this treaty stipulated: “the Russian Federation… reaffirm[s] [its] obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” Since Russia refused to abide by that agreement, of course Ukraine would seek protection from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Should Belgium have considered German security needs when Berlin delivered its ultimatum to Bruxelles in 1914? The Budapest Treaty makes clear that Russia waived all right to a stake in Ukraine’s internal affairs and acknowledged the country’s borders. In response to Russia’s reneging on that treaty, of course the United States and the West, as co-guarantors of Ukraine’s sovereignty, owe Kyiv assistance to repel Putin’s attack. Therein lies the crux of the matter. The West’s response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is not the “defense of a decadent world order whose demise is imminent and irreversible.” Mr. Lwere’s reasoning has led him down a dangerous path, which could be construed as apologism for Putin. NATO is not an imperialist organization. Throughout its history, NATO has only added members by consent. While undoubtedly the most powerful member of the alliance, the United States does not bestride NATO like a colossus. When France withdrew from the centralized NATO command in 1966, the United States accepted the decision without brow-beating Paris. The size of NATO forces facing their Russian opposites, has always been outnumbered by Russians. NATO’s charter makes clear that the Alliance is only activated following an attack on a member. NATO was not even an American idea! British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin first thought of it in 1948, and Britain and France lobbied to persuade Washington of NATO’s necessity. Any NATO member is free to leave whenever they desire – American tanks will not roll along the streets of their capital like Soviet armor did in Budapest in 1956, and Prague in 1968. As renowned Norwegian historian, Geir Lundestad, said, NATO may be an American empire, but it is an “empire by invitation.” The reality, therefore, is that even had Ukraine joined NATO, Russia’s security position would have been no different. Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Norway all share a border with Russia and are NATO members. Admitting Kyiv to the Alliance would not constitute “expand[ing] to its (Russia’s) doorsteps.” NATO is already there, and has been since 1955, when West Germany joined, bringing Alliance territory to the edge of the Soviet empire. In essence, Ukraine, in or out of NATO, has never posed a credible threat to Russia. Those who suggest the contrary are either misguided, or perpetuating Moscow’s torrent of lies. The process of trying to legitimate Russian motives in Ukraine puts one in opposition to truth. The origin of this conflict lies in Vladimir Putin’s twisted mind, and he and his Kremlin cronies bear the guilt. Ukraine is waging a defensive war, fighting to protect its right to exist. No amount of “whatabout-ery” concerning Iraq and Afghanistan alters that fact. The circumstances are not comparable. The United States and its allies did not undertake those campaigns to slaughter civilians or enslave them under a puppet regime like Lukashenko’s Belarus. Ukraine, contrary to those who believe Putin’s poisonous rhetoric, is a blameless victim, and so warrants American support. In 1939, those who discounted Hitler’s invasion of Poland rallied around the French slogan of “pourquoi mourir pour Dantzig?” Peddlers of that fallacy found plentiful employment in the collaborationist Vichy government. Their successors today spin the bile produced by “Pravda” and “Russia Today” (RT). Putin’s useful idiots will find an audience via free Western media. So too, however, must truth. The United States did not start this war, Russia did. NATO did not start this war, Russia did. Ukraine did not start this war, Russia did. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an abominable crime against humanity, and those who excuse it are today’s Quislings. America has a moral obligation to help Ukraine. Otherwise, we risk reliving Sir Edward Grey’s nightmare of 1914: “the lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Eoghan Fay


Mar. 28

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.