Even Stalin didn’t talk to the West in the language of ultimatums, not in so many words at any rate. That’s why comparisons of the current situation with Yalta are spurious.
Peruse any document issued there, and you won’t find a single word spelling out Soviet control over Eastern Europe, nor about dividing Europe into spheres of influence. No doubt Roosevelt and Stalin privately came to an agreement that amounted to the same thing – but Stalin didn’t threaten to invade had FDR proved recalcitrant.
The Soviet monster had to choose his words carefully: facing his exhausted troops in Europe was a powerful, well-equipped, relatively fresh allied force. One, moreover, that could soon count on a few atom bombs, which the Soviets hadn’t yet managed to produce.
Things are different now. That is, Russia’s inherently aggressive stance towards the West hasn’t changed. But the West’s resolve to resist it has.
That’s why the jumped-up KGB colonel in the Kremlin saw fit to demand that the West for all intents and purposes destroy its NATO-based system of collective security. Such terms have only ever been imposed on, or even proposed to, countries routed in a war.
Specifically, the West, as represented by NATO, is being ordered to withdraw all military personnel and bases to the pre-1997 borders – that is, to the positions they held before seven Eastern European countries joined NATO. To wit:
“Nato and the US must not station any additional military personnel or weapons outside the countries where they were stationed as of May 1997 (prior to the accession to the alliance of Eastern European countries) except in exceptional cases with the consent of Russia.” [My emphasis]
NATO must stop and roll back its eastward expansion, undertaking “not to deploy weapons and forces” where it “would be perceived by the other side as a threat to national security”. And Russia insists on having veto power on all military deployments in Europe.
In other words, NATO must not only refuse to admit the Ukraine, a victim of historical and current Russian brutality, but abandon to Putin’s mercy the seven Eastern European countries that are already members. That would effectively turn them into Russia’s vassals at best, colonies at worst.
Even more important, such betrayal would put paid to NATO as a guarantor of European security – with potentially dire consequences for Western Europe as well. Hence the draft treaties proposed by Russia amount to the dictated terms of surrender.
I could cite any number of Russian goebbelses trying to justify this outrage by ostensibly legitimate concerns, but there’s no need. Their steadfast stooge Peter Hitchens yet again acts as their mouthpiece:
“There is no doubt that Nato’s eastward expansion is an aggressive revival of a century-old German desire to push deeply into the old Russian Empire. There was never any other political or military need for it, though it greatly suited the USA’s military industries, which lost a lot of business when the Cold War ended.”
No doubt, fancy that. The doubtless premise peddled here is that Germany is the key player in NATO, with the alliance faithfully serving her dastardly interests. This is deranged nonsense, or rather a sycophantic troll.
As to the “political or military need for it”, it exists, it’s real, and it’s urgent. The need is to offer protection to countries that had suffered untold misery at the hands of the Soviets. It’s also to contain Russian expansionism aimed at reconstituting the Soviet Union – a goal regularly stated by Russian propagandists and chieftains, including Putin.
The Russian line or rather lie, which Hitchens regurgitates as faithfully as ever, is that NATO harbours aggressive designs on Russian territory and somehow threatens Russia’s security. The only thing threatened here is Putin’s kleptofascist regime that needs to pounce on weaker countries in order to survive.
Not even today’s Western governments, with appeasement and ‘pragmatism’ coursing through their veins, can accept such terms. I know it, you know it, Putin himself knows it. So why the counterproductive ultimatum?
It may represent an opening bid, with some leeway built in for future manoeuvres. This is a well-trodden path, and not just in politics. A businessman who wants to sell his company for £10 million may demand £15 million to give the other party a sense of victory when he finally agrees to accept what he wanted in the first place.
The West has already more or less left the Ukraine to her own devices, and it may well agree not to admit her to NATO now or ever. In return, Putin will graciously allow some NATO presence in Europe and then gobble up the Ukraine.
That may or may not be accomplished by a full-scale military invasion. There will be no need: left without NATO support, the Ukraine will have to do Putin’s bidding anyway.
No doubt another local conflict will happen, just to reassure the Russians that there’s still muscle left in that famously bare torso. But a full-blown war would result in tens of thousands of coffins flying back to Russia.
Putin’s goebbelses scream through every available channel that the Russians and Ukrainians are “the same people”, sort of like the 1939 Germans living in Germany proper and in Sudetenland. However, Ukrainians, even the Russophone ones, don’t share that view widely.
By and large they hate the Russians, and not without reason. Under the Soviets they were oppressed both physically and culturally.
In the early thirties millions of them were deliberately and didactically starved to death by the empire whose demise Putin sees as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”. And their own language and culture were stamped into the dirt even more than in some other Soviet republics.
Ukrainians will fight – they are already fighting. They know they can’t beat Putin’s troops in pitched battle, but they also know they can kill a lot of Russians in guerrilla warfare.
They did just that throughout the fifties, when UPA partisans, inspired by Stepan Bandera and organised by Roman Shukhevych, took to the forests and killed thousands of Russians and their local quislings. Today they are better equipped to inflict a much heavier damage, and the Russians know this.
However, Russian leaders have never been overburdened with concerns about Russian casualties. It’s conceivable that Putin will use NATO’s predictable refusal to surrender as a pretext for an escalating invasion – even if that means severing all links with the West.
I’d be curious to know what’s happening to the trillions in Russian assets held in the West. If they are staying put, it’s unlikely that the kleptofascists will push all their chips in, risking the impounding of their purloined wealth. However, if the money is being rapidly routed into assorted havens beyond NATO’s reach, the countdown for war is ticking away.
One way or another, now is the time the West must deliver a show of resolve and strength. This should be informed by comparisons not with Yalta, but with Munich, and with “a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing”.
If we are ever able to learn any lessons from even recent history (which I doubt), then we should know that appeasement only whets the appetite of evil regimes. And Putin’s is as evil as they come.