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Russia, Ukraine and ­­NATO: What Now?

Tug of War Over Ukraine

If you ask the average person on the street in any Western democracy, chances are they will blame only Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine, now in its fourth month.

In  this blog I’m asking readers to put conventional wisdom on hold, and consider why this war is happening, what could have been done to avoid it, and now, what could be done to end it sooner rather than later.

In every war governments on both sides must build and maintain public support for their war effort,  through highly emotional propaganda.  That’s why in every war the first casualty is always the truth.

Each side switches off its empathy for and understanding of the goals of the other. Once the good/evil glasses go on, the country can no longer see causes/effects, seeing only “us = good” and “the other =  evil”. Then, neither side has to accept responsibility for their actions, because the war is the enemy’s  fault. That reciprocal vilification describes the current Ukraine war messaging perfectly.

It may be too much to ask the combatants and their supporters to stop demonizing the other side and ask themselves “is there anything we have done, or not done, that could have helped to avoid this conflict?”  It is usually only years after the war that some historians can look more objectively at the contributions of each of the parties to triggering the conflict, and what each might have done to reduce the risk of war. 

There is nothing that can morally justify or excuse Vladimir Putin’s deadly military response to the impending further NATO expansion, but that expansion could explain why he did it.  It’s possible to recognize Putin’s malevolence while also recognizing that the US, by repeatedly supporting NATO’s expansion eastwards, made it more likely that a Russian leader would, eventually, respond with force. Ukraine as a bridge has now been burned.  It remains to be seen whether and how it can be rebuilt after this war ends.

Let’s start by looking at the messaging from both sides.

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