What lessons are there to learn and apply from the lesson that Russia is teaching the world? Well one of the lessons is that appeasement, pacificity, and hoping for the best does not work. As long as evil exists in the world there will be people who no one will ever be able to appease. It is part the folly of pacifists to believe that as long as people and countries show their enemies they mean them no harm, and they are nice to them, then evil will have no reason to rear it’s ugly head.
There are people who believe that if America was to lay down it’s arms, and get rid of, or reduce it’s nuclear arsenal, that will reduce the threat of war. This is naivety of the highest order. It goes without saying that the world would be better off without weapons of any kind, but the reality is that we live in a flawed, sinful world. The strong and the powerful will always seek to conquer the less powerful and the weak. Even if there were no arms people would still find ways to kill each other. If by some strange measure all of the arms in the world would disappear tonight, people would start seeking ways to develop them by the next morning.
Nations like the current day European countries, and the United States that do not wantonly use their superior military might to conquer other nations and rule them is rare. There was a time when conquest was the way of the world, and nations did whatever they wanted to do to build empires. The people with the most might have always done whatever they wanted to do.
When Europeans introduced the horse to Native Americans it changed the balance of power among the Indian tribes. The Commanche became skilled horsemen and they used their new found prowess to wage wars of conquest against other tribes. They became an unstoppable military force and conquered territory that covered large swaths of land in the process, building themselves an empire before they themselves were conquered.
We know about the brutal military expeditions of Genghis Khan. He used his military might to build one of the largest the Military Empires the world had ever seen, even surpassing the Roman Empire in some ways. For over four hundred years, Moslem conquerors swept across the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe. The Europeans gave us people like Pizzaro, Cortes, Hitler, Mussolini and others. The point is that all of world history is filled with stories of brutal conquerors, from the Egyptian Empire, the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks all the way up to modern times. Bullies flex their muscles whenever they sense weakness.
Over the last 80 years or so the major powers have served as a check on each other. Neither of them wanted to fire the first shot of what would most likely lead to the biggest conflict and loss of human life the world has ever seen. With the break up of the Soviet Union, Russia had lost a lot of it’s former prestige and status in the world. Since the rise of Vladimir Putin, he has nurtured dreams of reestablishing Russia to the days of its former glory. Soft targets like Georgia and Ukraine seemed like good places to target in the effort to restore the Soviet Empire.
Ukraine is one of the countries that possessed a large number of nuclear weapons when the Soviet Empire crumbled in the early nineties. In a show of goodwill they turned over all of the nuclear weapons to Russia in a U.S./United Nations brokered agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Britain and the U.S. At the time Ukraine may have felt for several reasons that they were doing the right thing, especially when they got guarantees from Russian that Russia will respect Ukraine’s sovreignty and borders.
In addition, the United States and other signatories gave Ukraine some security guarantees that reassured them they have nothing about which to worry. While some former Soviet territories aligned themselves with Russia after giving up their weapons. Ukraine looked to partner with the E.U. and the United States. Russia has complained that NATO’s eastward expansion was at least a violation of a common understanding between the nations former Soviet bloc countries would not join NATO.
With the Rise of Putin and his imperialist goals, NATO’s continued expansion goals and some other factors, Putin felt he needed to make a move. From what has transpired so far and the response to Putin’s move, it is evident that all of the other efforts to appease Mr. Putin over the years, despite his protests over NATO, have proved to be worthless. Another thing that is evident in hindsight is that Ukraine outsourcing it’s security to outside forces when they gave up their nuclear weapons, and assumed a posture of wishful thinking toward Russia, proved to be a huge mistake.