After seven months of horrifying war, the last few weeks have been inspiring as the Ukrainian Army, with the help of western weapons and local courage that no weapons could provide, have reclaimed swaths of occupied land. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is not one to give in, though, and his speech today makes that point, if anyone was in doubt.
If this were a movie, more likely than the end, we find ourselves at the midpoint. The point where the alien invasion seems vanquished because we have failed to notice the large ship emerging from the ocean.
Putin wants “the West” to understand this. The diabolical threat of nuclear war that he has repeatedly used to keep the constituents of NATO hesitating was front and center in his address concerning mobilizing more troops. The state-controlled media outlets of Russia, an ever disturbing window into ideas the Kremlin wants to try out, have increasingly amplified doomsday-like nuclear scenarios that make even Putin’s own words seem tame.
It appears that Putin’s plan is to support faux referendums next week in the occupied parts of Ukraine, like they did previously with Crimea. After the already planned “election results” come out, Russia can claim that parts of Ukraine are its sovereign territory, thus providing a “justification” for nuclear responses to continued de-occupation of the land by Ukraine.
President Biden, addressing the United Nations this morning, observed:
Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations Charter —- no more important than the clear prohibition against countries taking the territory of their neighbor by force.
Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe and a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime.
Now Russia is calling —- calling up more soldiers to join the fight. And the Kremlin is organizing a sham referenda to try to annex parts of Ukraine, an extremely significant violation of the U.N. Charter.
The president is quite right. Unfortunately, as is all too apparent, the United Nations is utterly impotent to do anything about this. The idiotic design of the organization’s charter — giving the permanent security council members carte blanche to violate the charter by virtue of unchecked veto power — ensures Russia can deadlock any attempt to make the organization stand for what it claims to.
While that may have seemed like a useful feature at times, since the United States also has such power, this shows why giving anyone unchecked power is a horrid idea. Biden goes on:
Members of the U.N. Security Council, including the United States, should consistently uphold and defend the U.N. Charter and refrain — refrain from the use of the veto, except in rare, extraordinary situations, to ensure that the Council remains credible and effective.
The credibility train already left some time ago. Of course, a nation behaving badly that has power to veto any consequences will. A robber who could veto his jail sentence naturally would. Nations are no different.
I cannot imagine why any nation lacking a permanent security council seat would possibly want to subject itself to the organization, knowing that the five nations controlling the fate of the organization can blatantly play by a different set of rules. A long term, moral solution would be to provide some sort of check to veto power, if there is even a reason to keep the United Nations around at all (I am, admittedly, dubious).
As a pastor, I often remind people of the difference of Biblical leadership: when faithfully implemented, whether as the King of Israel or a modern church pastor, the Bible always checks the power of leaders. Good leadership involves being willing to place oneself under just accountability. The principle stands in the secular world: if the UN is just, then there should be no need for unchecked power in it; and if unchecked power is required to make it just, then we ought to quit wasting our time with it.
I digress, for this will surely not be solved now, if ever. The pressing question since the institution designed to stop these sorts of wars is incapable of doing so is what those who can stop it are going to do.
The United States and other countries have provided a huge amount of aid to help the Ukrainians with their fight, but hesitated repeatedly to give them aircraft and other tools that might provide the level of advantage they need to completely vanquish Russia. We must understand that tiptoeing around Russia is not edging us further away from nuclear conflict. The push to rapid referendums will provide a nuclear pretext, however ridiculous it might be. Continuing to provide Ukraine with the sorts of weapontry we have thus far will play into that pretext just as much as more advanced military resources.
Rather than a continued slow ramp up as Putin’s army brings death to painfully large numbers of civilians (as mass burial sites keep attesting to), we ought to immediately give Ukraine enough firepower to make those referendums impossible to hold next week. Modern fighter jets, significantly more medium-to-long range missile systems, advanced air defense systems and modern, NATO-grade tanks — the things we have withheld.
Would this provoke Putin to nuclear war? Perhaps, but so too will the lesser approach we presently take, so long as that lesser approach continues to deal Russia humiliating defeats. The key difference to a more aggressive approach is that it might just be enough to actually end the war, thus averting such threats, while also ending the constant civilian deaths that continue during our present plodding.
If President Biden wants to stand for the tenets of the United Nations charter he speaks so loftily of, we should lead the alliance of countries supporting the nation clearly in the right in the eyes of the UN charter by making the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and the terrorization of its citizens completely impossible for Russia to sustain. Every day it continues the current course, international “law” merely becomes more laughably meaningless. Meanwhile, inviolable principles from God about the value of life are recklessly violated by Russia’s murderous rampage.
The best way to prevent a future of nuclear wars is to ensure right now, this day, that Russia, and other nations (hello, China) that might want to follow its example know we won’t just help victimized nations get a better shot at victory.
If we care about the principles we allegedly do, that victory needs to never be merely a shot but a certainty.