I don't want to justify what Putin is doing. He chose to wage war. A combination of underestimating Ukrainian resistance and overestimating the competence of his military has landed him and his country in a mess that may be as bad for Russia as the failed Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989). Putin claimed he had no alternative in responding to the security threat posed by NATO expansion aimed at including Ukraine and Georgia. In a previous article, I argued that his complaint about NATO expansion and his demands for a neutral security zone in eastern Europe were reasonable. This does not imply that his invasion was justified, or that he has chosen the best way to press his demands.
As we denounce Putin's violence in Ukraine, let's keep in mind that NATO's attempt to incorporate Ukraine made Russia's hostile response as predictable as ours would be if an alien and unfriendly military force moved into Mexico (or Cuba). Deliberately provoking an invasion makes the inciter share moral responsibility with the invader. For this reason, John Mearsheimer, one of the foremost scholars of the Cold War, has argued that "the West, especially the United States, is principally responsible for this [Ukraine] disaster."
We should blame the U.S. and NATO not only for provoking war in Ukraine. By increasing the risk of a nuclear war that could result in global destruction of life, their behavior is beyond reckless. There is an insane quality to the discussions about exactly which weapons the U.S. and its allies can get away with sending to Ukraine without causing WWIII. It is chilling to think that these decisions are in the hands of the incompetent foreign-policy establishment that got us into three delusional and unnecessary wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The anger and fear that our media are stoking against Russia should also be directed at our own government.
The Ukraine narrative we are getting from our government and our stenographic mainstream media has us looking down from our moral heights at the uncivilized cruelty of the Russian military destroying European homes and killing children that look like ours. It's hard to miss the racial element in our shock. As The Guardian reported on March 2:
"Writing in the Telegraph, Daniel Hannan explained: 'They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. Ukraine is a European country ... War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations.'"
The people of Yemen are one of those "impoverished and remote populations." For seven years, they have endured the atrocities of war inflicted by a U.S.-supported coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeera reports a UN estimate that "more than 377,000 people have died due to the conflict as of late 2021." More than a year ago (2/4/21) President Biden announced that he was "stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen a war which has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe." He added that "to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales." A year later, our support and arms sales continue. Ukraine notwithstanding, The World Food Program calls Yemen today "the world's worst humanitarian crisis." Thanks to a Saudi air and sea blockade, "20 million people in Yemen are suffering from hunger and malnutrition." Saudi airstrikes have destroyed much of the infrastructure needed for food production, as well as hospitals, water treatment plants, wells and irrigations canals.
The U.K. also sells weapons to the coalition destroying Yemen. On Mar. 16, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (AKA "MBS"), the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. He was asking for an increase in Saudi oil exports to make up for the deficit created by the U.S. ban of imported oil from Russia. It was an awkward time for this visit. The Saudis had just executed 81 people in a single day, their largest ever mass execution. MBS and his regime were already an international pariah because, as reported by The Independent, women activists and political prisoners are "sexually assaulted, tortured and executed in Saudi Arabia jails." Another distasteful fact was the still fresh memory of the suffocation and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Despite this malodorous history, there are plans for Joe Biden to also visit Riyadh on a similar mission. As Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, remarked in an interview on Democracy Now,
"It's mind-boggling that Mohammed bin Salman has actually said that he will not increase oil production unless the U.S. increases its support for the war in Yemen. Basically, the Biden administration is bargaining to do more to save the children of Ukraine by massacring more children in Yemen."
As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explained to Europe News, Putin is a barbarian for "bringing war back to Europe. Once again, in the centre of Europe, innocent women, men and children are dying or fear for their lives. We condemn this barbaric attack, and the cynical arguments used to justify it," she said with a sombre tone. In a similar vein, European nations are opening their arms to Ukrainian refugees, while turning back the tide of refugees from the American and NATO killing fields of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.