Ukraine: A Global Existential Crisis

Volodymyr Kish

For many of the world’s political leaders, the events in Ukraine of the past several months have been an inconvenient and uncomfortable political crisis that they would rather not have had to confront or deal with.  Regrettably, the history of Ukraine and its difficult relationship with Russia in particular, is little known and understood in the corridors of power of the countries that make up the G7, or the European Union, or even NATO, so their response to the Ukraine crisis has been confused, inadequate and highly problematic. 

In the short time since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the countries that used to be collectively known as the “West” have deluded themselves into thinking that they won the “Cold War” and that Russia would now join the ranks of normal, democratic, free enterprise countries that they could deal with rationally when it came to political and economic matters.  Recent events have proven conclusively that such thinking is both naïve and delusional.

What is happening in Ukraine is not a local political crisis; it is nothing less than a global existential crisis whose resolution will be pivotal in determining the future of international political and economic relations.  At the heart of it all is a very basic moral question – should any country be allowed to bully and invade its neighbour for nothing more than blatant imperialistic reasons? Can any democratic country that subscribes to the principles of freedom and human rights, look the other way while a bully country lies, connives, and organizes the terroristic subversion of another?  In this, the 21st century, can the free world stand by while a country, whose people want nothing more than dignity, freedom and a decent civil society free from corruption, is dismembered by its overtly fascistic neighbour?

While the true nature of Russia’s aggression and duplicity is now no longer in question, too many countries are hesitating to take any kind of effective measures to check Russia and Putin’s immoral adventurism.  And by effective measures, let us be clear that it is not a question of direct military intervention or sabre rattling.  Russia can be effectively stopped in its tracks through some very simple yet potent non-military actions.

One must realize that Russia’s economy and the vast wealth and assets of its political and business elites are totally dependent on the global financial system.  Cut off access to that system and the Russian economy, together with its government would crumble very quickly.  Make it clear to the Russians that if they want to play in the global playground, they must play by the rules, and one of those rules is keep you bear paws off of Ukraine and all the other former colonies of the Russian empire.  If they continue to persist with their bloody interference in Ukraine’s affairs, then let them know that there will be very real and very serious consequences.

Such consequences should include banning all travel by Russians to any country in the free world.  No more vacations on the Riviera; no more shopping trips to London or Paris; no sending your kids to schools in Europe or North America. 

They should also freeze all assets held by Russians outside their country.  No more access to all those pilfered billions being held in offshore accounts or those penthouse suites and mansions that the oligarchs have purchased in most of Europe’s capitols.

They should suspend all foreign investment in Russia and deny Russians access to all foreign banking, credit and debit card systems and capital markets. They should significantly reduce if not eliminate purchase of all Russian petroleum and natural resource products, the source of most of Russia’s foreign earnings. They should ban all business activity by Russian individuals and companies outside of the territory of Russia.

Such a virtual economic cordon sanitaire around Russia would in a very short space of time persuade its ruling elites and the Russian masses that Putin’s misguided Ukraine strategy will turn Russia into nothing more than a larger version of North Korea.  Under such circumstances I am sure that Putin would very quickly be forced from the scene.

No doubt there would be some pain to western and European economies in particular, but let us not delude ourselves.  The stakes are high. Putin is setting out to turn the clock of history back several centuries and resume the age old Russian policy of imperial conquest.  His ultimate vision is of a world ruled and dominated by Russia.  He believes in the manifest destiny of Homo Russianus and the moral superiority of Russian culture.  If we want to preserve world peace and our current quality of life, then we must act on principle before those principles become meaningless in the face of a ruthless madman.

Sooner or later, the world will have to deal with Putin the same way it dealt with Hitler whose madness Putin seems to have inherited.  It would be better to stop Putin dead in his tracks now.  The longer the free world waits, the higher the ultimate price it will have to pay for its lack of action now.