We are now facing a new world paradigm: If you are a nuclear power, you are free to invade any member of the United Nations and annex all or part of it. You accomplish this by invading a neighboring country and then telling the rest of the world that if it interferes, the invader will use nuclear weapons to prevent and punish interference. That is what Russia has done.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had hoped that its invasion would overwhelm Kyiv and eliminate its government in less than a week (preferably with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dead) so that the world would face a fait accompli before it had time to react. An immediate Vichy-style government would then tell the world that Ukraine welcomed Russian intervention and wanted no interference from the rest of the world.
Putin must have been in an Oculus metaverse created by his and his own boot-licking entourage’s imagination.
Instead, Putin destroyed Russia’s great power image and caused a debilitating months-long stalemate fostered by a ragtag Ukrainian military literally running around with Javelin anti-tank missiles, militarized drones, and an incredible expression of will.
And what did the world get? A nuclear dilemma.
How do other sovereign nations respond to a nuclear threat that says, in effect, if any nation interferes with a nuclear power’s invasion of a neighbor, the invader will use nuclear weapons in response.
If that’s indeed the “new normal,” it isn’t difficult to imagine what likely follows. Sorry, Taiwan, you are on your own; we will send flowers to your funeral. And that funeral will not be the last.
Even short of nuclear war, Russia can do damage to its recalcitrant neighbors. Moscow has begun to retaliate against Ukraine’s allies by cutting off natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria. The United States could open its oil and gas spigots to replace Russian sources and help offset the inflated world price of oil, which only lines the pockets of Russian and Middle Eastern autocrats. We know it can be done—and have salutary effects on world energy prices—because it was already happening under the Trump Administration. But that would require fracking on federal lands and drilling offshore—policies anathema to the current administration. Joe Biden’s decision to close those sources and end their federal regulatory support is bad for national security. Reversing those decisions is Europe’s only immediate escape from Russian blackmail.
Although environmentalists will scream, they need to understand that nuclear warfare would be far worse for every living thing on Earth, not just homo sapiens. Wearing blinders and green glasses will not change the dire immediate threat of a nuclear exchange.
We have to raise the biggest stink we can in the United Nations. Move to remove Russia from the Security Council as a permanent member since that seat was originally granted to the Soviet Union, not Russia. While a worldwide bureaucracy such as the U.N. may be just another form of tyranny (just look at the pathetic history of the U.N. human rights council), in this instance, its forum can be critical to helping resolve this crisis.
Russia has made it very difficult to negotiate a face-saving exit from its predicament, and the Biden Administration has failed to show it can act competently on the big stage. As bad as the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan was for American prestige, it was not a real risk to our national security. The war in Ukraine is.