Some thoughts on Ukraine: Russia’s invasion and likely absorption of that country into Russia (either swallowed whole or as a satellite), establishes some terribly alarming precedents for other countries embroiled in disputes. Thus far, China has merely rattled sabers at Taiwan. It has made threats and launched aerial flyovers into Taiwanese airspace. But it has not come close to what Putin did. There is no massing of hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of tanks and warplanes on the Chinese coast.
But if you were Xi Jinping you would be looking at Putin’s actions with pleasure, rubbing your hands together with glee. If Putin can do this, then there’s no reason why China shouldn’t do the same to Taiwan. The west stands by (in China’s view) helplessly as Russia takes Ukraine apart and remakes it as a Russian colony. This is not lost on Xi. Also, Xi sees and understands Putin’s ambitions to return his country to its former glory. Not just to restore the supposed grandeur of the old Soviet Union, but the imperial greatness of the Czars. Xi has no less grand ambitions. Anyone who could single-handedly confront a time-honored Chinese tradition of succession and assume unto himself the powers of perpetual rule will have his own visions of personal grandeur. He too wants to restore China’s former imperial greatness. He too has ambitions for China to rule the seas and project Chinese power around the world. And who is there to stop him? A few second-tier powers like South Korea and Japan? And what will the US do to stop a takeover of Taiwan? Will it commit military forces to defend Taiwan? Will it attack China? Will it do what it takes? Or allow itself to be bluffed?
Whatever happens, Putin’s invasion has made Biden’s life a whole lot more complicated than it already was. We now have to commit military forces to defend other countries on Russia’s periphery whom Putin eyes as potential prizes. We have to anticipate escalations in other regions like Asia. Our military power will be stretched thin. Our military budgets will likely be increased, likely meaning less funding for major domestic priorities. This will not sit well with Biden’s Democratic constituency.
Another victim of Putin’s War is diplomacy. He has shown not only that it doesn’t work, but that you don’t need it. If you can’t get what you want via negotiation, screw it, you get better results by thrashing your opponent or rival. What country will now say: I can work things out with my opponent by talking, rather than fighting?
Putin Emboldens Israeli Ambitions
How could Ukraine’s fall affect Israeli policy? Israeli leaders and generals will look at Ukraine and say: Putin is right. If you want something, take it. Why should we care about what the world thinks? Putin doesn’t, and look where it got him. Admittedly, Israel is not the world power that Russia is. But Israel likes to think of itself in these terms and Putin offers a powerful example. Remember the world thought of Russia as a basket case. It considered its military a laughingstock. But look who’s laughing now?
Also, Israel loves strongmen leaders. So what if they’re corrupt and kill tens of thousands. The world wasn’t made without breaking a few eggs. Israel knows that democratic countries and leaders are its enemies (with the exception of the US). That’s why it admires Putin. It’s no accident that Netanyahu made numerous trips to Moscow to curry favor with the Russian leader.
They say that Bibi admired Winston Churchill. But we all know he admired Putin more. The Israeli ex-PM was a would-be tyrant while Putin was the real thing. There had to be a mutual admiration society going on there.
Ukraine is especially relevant regarding Iran. Netanyahu was willing to attack Iran and tried to persuade two US presidents to give him the green light. He never got one and this restrained him. He could not go to war in the face of such opposition (not to mention his military-intellegence leadership, which also opposed an attack).
But now, what’s to stop Israel? Will Biden stop it? If you go by the Ukraine model, he won’t or he can’t. Can he impose an arms embargo? Sanctions? No and no. Can he hurt Israel in any significant way? Unlikely, as he will feel the wrath of the Israel Lobby and the GOP. Thus, Israel will be emboldened to take matters into its own hands. An Israeli attack on Iran has become far more likely after Ukraine.
I continue to be mystified by the myopia of the hard left concerning Putin’s War. They claim they oppose western imperialism. And that Putin is somehow the countervailing force which will restrain such aggression. But when will Putin stop? Russia has historical claims to far more than Ukraine: think of the Baltic States and Poland. If he attacks them will this be simply a restoration of Russia’s rightfully claimed territory? Will it be the bloody nose these Putinophiles hope he gives the West?
Further, how can those purporting to be on the anti-war left support Putin’s attack? Are Putin’s wars acceptable, but all other wars not? I continue to marvel at those who claim they don’t support Putin, but support his war because it is a blow against western aggression and rapaciousness. It’s Putin’s war. You can’t oppose him but support his war.
This article was published by Tikun Olam