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Thoughts on Ukraine

Last Thursday, the full might of Vladimir Putin’s Russian military was unleashed on Ukraine, after weeks of Russian troop and equipment buildup faced with diplomatic efforts by western leaders to avert war.

Putin justified the first major attack on a European country since World War II, calling it a “special military operation,” blaming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by saying the alliance was an existential threat to Russia.He said Russia has to defend itself and he is going to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine.

The “special military operation” has included the invasion of Ukraine itself, including an attack on its capital Kyiv and other major cities. Russia attacked from Belarus in the north; the annexed Crimean Peninsula in the south, that it took in 2014, without suffering significant sanctions from the international community; and its borders in the east. We are currently looking at the biggest Russian military deployment since WWII.

Surprisingly, both to Putin and the world, Ukraine’s resistance over the past week of fighting has been fierce, if not legendary. But with the indiscriminate viciousness of Russian attacks coming from all fronts, including the air and artillery, things aren’t looking good for the defenders who are determined to hold back the invaders.

The other surprise, both to Putin and the world, has been the historical scale of foreign and defense policy moves. Nobody can help Ukraine militarily because it is not a member of NATO, but the EU is for the first time financing the purchase and delivery of weapons to a country at war. Germany has reversed its historic policy against sending arms to conflict zones and has doubled its defense budget. The threat of a nuclear war and mutually assured destruction is as close to reality as it ever has been so most of Europe is basically doing everything they can short of sending boots on the ground and fighters in the air.

Severe economic sanctions, as well as cultural and sporting boycotts, have been served. Russian banks were blocked from the global financial system, exports to the country banned. The Russian Ruble and Moscow’s stock exchange went on freefall.

Apple stopped services like Apple Pay and Maps. Google limited some services and Netflix refused to add state-run channels to its Russian service. Aircraft Company Boeing suspended parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines and Nike even stopped deliveries to the country.

It is clear as day that Putin’s act of war is evil. People who cannot to take a stand or are even considering neutrality must have their moral compasses checked and quite honestly, are not fit to lead anyone anywhere because they’d most likely end up lost.

The good news is that the Philippines stood up with the rest of the world in condemning Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The bad news is that only happened probably because our dear leader was either unaware or asleep while our diplomats in the UN GA took a stand for him and by extension, our country.

The Russian war in Ukraine doesn’t look like it will end soon. Putin miscalculated grossly when he thought the Ukrainians who have a former comedian for their president would welcome his “liberation” without resistance. This war turned Volodymyr Zelensky into one of the most admired and respected men in the planet and at the same time, reduced Putin’s stature worldwide.

And because his war didn’t end as quickly as he expected, the entire world is now rightfully against Vladimir Putin and his crony oligarchs. He may have gotten away with annexing Crimea in 2014 and poisoning his political foes and spies on foreign soil without any serious sanctions, but this time the world finally put its foot down.

Whatever is happening in Ukraine right now is highly relevant to us Filipinos because whatever Putin and Xi Jinping share the same playbook. They’ve been flouting international laws and conventions without consequence for years. As Putin has poisoned opponents and annexed Crimea, Xi is taking over the West Philippine Sea, turning Hong Kong into China, and committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs. Xi’s China would’ve been emboldened to commit the same crimes had Putin succeeded with his invasion of Ukraine and gotten away with it with another slap on the wrist.

The good news for us it seems that the international community is finally standing up to these bullies. Hopefully a solution that can be found that will result in a ceasefire and the de-escalation of hostilities in Ukraine, and everyone learns their lesson.

However, while the world is finally wising up to the bullies, the most important ingredient is the quality of the local leader. Ukraine got lucky with Zelensky who is now an international rock star because of his courage and resolve. Unlike other leaders who are only good at making empty promises and posturing, he stood his ground, even with the odds stacked against him. He didn’t say joke only or disappear when the going got tough. He’s probably the type of guy who doesn’t hide from debates or sit on the fence.Imagine how easily Ukraine would’ve fallen had someone made of weaker stuff been in his place.*

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May 2022
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