I don’t know Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine, but I don’t see anything that threatens the United States or is worth risking war over.
Ukraine held elections Sunday which evidently were won by anti-Russian, pro-European parties. But the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk districts did not take part, and will hold their own elections this coming Sunday.
The government in Kiev objects to the Donetsk-Lugansk vote, but spokesmen for the Russian government say they’ll honor its results.
A smart Ukrainian-American friend of mine said Putin’s policy to Ukraine is the same as Hitler’s policy toward Czechoslovakia. Hitler’s demand was to annex the Sudetenland border region, where Germans were in the majority. But Hitler went on to annex the whole of the country and then to attack Poland, launching the Second World War.
In the same way, he said, Putin’s aim is to first annex Donetsk and Lugansk, then take over the whole of Ukraine and then move against Poland and the Baltic states.
Another friend, who speaks Russian and watches Russian television, agrees with this assessment. She said Putin is an extreme Russian nationalist and imperialist. Russians despise other nationalities, and especially look down on Americans as naive and weak, she said; it is important to stop Russia in Ukraine and nip Putin’s ambitions in the bud.
My impression of Vladimir Putin is that he is a tough and ruthless, but realistic. He may lie, but he doesn’t deceive himself. As a Russian nationalist, he no doubt regards himself as the protector of Russians wherever they are, including Russians in Ukraine and northern Kazakhstan. Putin is trying to organize something called the Eurasian Union, an economic bloc consisting of the republics of the former Soviet Union, as a rival to the European Union. No doubt, like all Russian statesmen before him, he thinks it essential that Russia have access to the Baltic and Black seas.
I don’t see anything in this that threatens the interests of the United States or the European Union, and certainly not anything worth risking war over.