Today the Russian invasion of Ukraine has become indisputable. Anyone living here acknowledges that the invasion began in February, when Russia occupied Crimea. In March, Russia held a sham referendum that led to its annexation. Many in the West didn't take this event seriously. What poor judgement.
In April, Slavyansk, a small city in eastern Ukraine, was seized by separatists operating under Russian leadership. It didn't take long for Russian-led separatists to establish pro-Russian republics in Luhansk and Donetsk.
I doubt Putin ever read Steinbeck or understood that "Best Laid Plans" thing. He didn't expect Ukraine to fight back. Lavrov, Russia's minister of foreign affairs, said that any attack on pro-Russian separatists would be treated as an attack on Russia itself. But when Ukraine took on the separatists, Russia's army held back, baffled that Ukraine had the balls to shoot.
But Putin didn't hold back weapons or fighters, who managed to shoot down a civilian airliner, an event that soured European attitudes towards Russia. The majority of the "separatists" are not even Ukrainian — they are mostly Russian citizens and mercenaries. Anyone who thinks that the local population has the resources, training and will to fight the Ukrainian army is delusional.
The army did surprisingly well. It drove back Russia's proxy forces and was poised for victory. But Putin could not bear the loss of face. Simply sending more fighters and weapons wasn't enough. So he sent Russian soldiers into Ukraine, without insignia. They have taken two small cities already and are attacking Mariupol, a city on the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian news says that Odessa is the next target.
How shameful, how cowardly.
A number of Western countries have acknowledged that Russian forces are here in Ukraine. But none, yet, have told Putin what consequences he might expect. How could they not have anticipated this? Have decades of peace and civilization made them so soft?
As a resident and supporter of Ukraine, I worry. But my Ukrainian friends and colleagues have much greater fears — their sons, brothers and friends could end up face-to-face with seasoned Russian soldiers. One colleague fears for her 23-year old son. Another, for her husband, who has military training he never expected would be in demand.
This situation was not caused by Ukrainians. Or by Westerners. It happened for one simple reason: Putin can't stand the idea of a free, independent Ukraine associating with Europe and becoming a modern, civilized country. This is the time for Europe to put its values into action rather than talking and writing about them. Will they do it? The world should know, but it doesn't. This ought to shame them, but it doesn't.
Russia will not be forgiven anytime soon. These are bitter times.