Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday March 1, 2022
Putin’s blind ambition has backfired
We’re seeing history written before our eyes in Ukraine and Russia. No one knows how it will turn out in the end, but at this point, five days into the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state, one thing stands out:
It looks very much as though Vladimir Putin has scored what in the soccer world they call an own goal. He took aim at his supposed enemies, and smacked himself in the face.
•Instead of crushing Ukraine with overwhelming might, his forces are bogged down as Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike put up a heroic resistance.
•Instead of dividing the West, he has given it common purpose in opposing his naked aggression. Ukraine’s example has stiffened the spines of western nations that were dithering about how far they were prepared to go in standing up to Putin.
•Instead of rolling back NATO, he’s now seeing more countries rushing to join it, for fear they might be next on Putin’s hit list.
•Instead of flexing his economic and energy leverage over Europe, he’s seeing the ruble collapse and sanctions beginning to bite. Russia is now an international pariah.
•And instead of unifying his own people, he’s seeing demonstrations against the Ukraine war breaking out in Moscow, St. Petersburg and dozens of other cities. Decent Russians are appalled by their government’s actions.
Even as talks between the two sides were underway on Monday, for example, Russian forces struck at the city of Kharkiv, hitting civilian targets and killing many people. There could, unfortunately, be much more such bloodshed to come.
But even if the Russian military does step up its game and overwhelms the much smaller Ukrainian forces, Putin faces the prospect of occupying a large and hostile country, one whose spirit of defiance puts the lie to his claim that Ukraine is not a real country but just an estranged part of the greater Russian cultural space.
Such an occupation would be long and bitter. History is littered with examples of imperial powers that thought they could easily dominate weaker nations and found instead their blood and treasure draining from the wound they had inflicted on themselves ( namely the United States in Vietnam and Iraq; the Russians themselves in Afghanistan; Nazi Germany in the Soviet Union).
Putin would have avoided most of this if he had chosen to invade only the eastern Donbas region, where much of the Russian-speaking population might well have welcomed Russian troops. That would have violated Ukrainian territorial integrity, but it would have kept the conflict contained.
Instead, to the surprise of just about everyone, he went for the big prize — occupying all of Ukraine and decapitating its government. Perhaps he believed his own propaganda that Ukrainians would accept, albeit grudgingly, Russian soldiers on their streets because, after all, they are one people in the end.
If that was ever true, it certainly isn’t now. Legends are being forged every day in the crucible of war; no one will ever forget the Ukrainian border guards who told a Russian warship to “go f — yourself” before being attacked, or the plucky president who stayed to fight instead of fleeing the country.
After that, there’s no doubt Ukraine is a sovereign nation that deserves its independence as much as any. That was always the central issue in this conflict, and on that point Putin has already lost the fight. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)