Several weeks back I and most of the world conceded Ukraine to a Russian invasion. Vladimir Putin had the green light in that both the U.S. and NATO promised no intervention would be forthcoming.
But we forgot to ask the people of Ukraine.
Motivated by an impassioned President Volodymyr Zelensky, perhaps the most courageous national leader of our generation, Ukrainians are putting up a valiant fight. Even the millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainians are picking democracy over Russian domination.
Without immediate intervention, however, Ukraine will be overrun. Tens of thousands will die. Beautiful and historic cities will be levelled. All while we falsely claim we are for democracy and the little guy. We can only hope some European nations will step up, since we will not.
Putin has been wanting to end the NATO alliance. NATO is the greatest threat to Russian hegemony. Putin is fearful that NATO will inch westward, one day sitting right on Russia’s doorstep.
To be clear, the reason NATO still exists is to curb Russian aggression. But our courage should not have stopped at the borders of NATO countries.
We knew the Russian invasion of Ukraine was in the making for possibly 15 years. Putin has long claimed that Ukraine is Russia and that Ukraine should not exist.
As early as 2008, the Russians sent in heavy arms and military personnel masquerading as “separatists” into Ukraine’s Donbas, Luhansk and Donetsk regions. These territories, backed by Russia, declared independence in 2014. Around the same time, Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimea territory.
These well-planned actions by Russia caught Ukraine and the world by surprise and were largely unopposed.
This time in 2022, as Russia amassed more than 150,000 combat troops along three sides of Ukraine, except for the Ukrainians themselves, the world was not very surprised when Russia invaded.
I understand Russian warfare and tactics. For several years my job was to plan and direct the combat operations of a mechanized infantry and armored brigade assigned to respond to any Soviet attack in Europe.
More than just prayers and sympathy should go out to the people of Ukraine. The Russian style of war is not pretty.
Relatively unchanged since the Cold War, the Russian war strategy is to send massive columns of tanks, personnel carriers and artillery to overwhelm any resistance with sheer numbers.
Most Russian troops, barely trained but obedient, we expect will not be sure what is going on. But training does not matter so long as indiscriminate Russian shelling of cities inflicts mass horror and wonton destruction. This is typical of Russian warfare.
When Putin states his war effort does not target civilians, he is correct. To the Russian war machine, there is no target — everything is fair game. The core of Russian warfare is to pound their enemy’s will into submission with overwhelming numbers and unrelenting and indiscriminate destruction.
The hospitality of Poland, Hungary and Romania, and generosity of the rest of Europe are frankly stunning, but no amount of sympathy or support will turn back Putin’s invaders.
Until the U.S. and other world powers are willing to engage in battle and step up to protect those democracies who have the courage to fight, despots like Putin will continue to invade unchecked.
The Russian war machine is vulnerable to air attack, however. Our first priority should be to assist Ukraine and encourage neighboring countries to help create air superiority over Ukraine airspace. This will stifle Russian advances immediately.
Steeper sanctions may strangle the Russian economy over time. Freezing oligarch assets may add some pressure as well.
But the most powerful force on Earth, however, is not an army, air power, or even nuclear weapons.
The most powerful force is collective social outrage. We should proudly show our solidarity and issue massive aid to Ukraine. Maybe the Russian people will understand why we and most of the world are so passionate.
Unless the Russian people themselves are outraged, this slugfest could last a generation.
Putin is controlling the message in Russia. But if the truth would be known, imagine the impact of a million Russians, unafraid of arrest, marching in protest against what Putin has done.
The Russian people, a good people, can stop this war. Our example can show them the way.
I invite our community to join in and support the people of Ukraine, not just with words or donations, but with a show of unity. Perhaps our Russian comrades will feel our passion and share our outrage in Red Square.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the COO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.