When Will We Ever Learn?
By Tony Candela
Here we are in late February 2022 on the brink of what could easily escalate into a regional war in and around the Ukraine. I am neither an historian nor political scientist, so my thinking about the situation probably does not do justice to the subject. Still, I am afraid that a deadly and destructive war is about to take place. We have at the core of the matter a powerful leader who, much as another recent world leader closer to home, is unhinged. In more than one way, he is isolated and trapped in a set of constructs of his own making. As with our own recent President, Putin has conjured “realities” that have inexorably led him to where we are: backed against a wall he imagines must exist and threatening the Ukraine with his mighty tools and deadly toys. Putin is a child of the old Soviet Union and for reasons only staunch conservatives can understand, has not been able to let go of the past. He yearns for a return to a state of power he both remembers and imagines existed under the USSR. He is torn apart inside by the loss of the Ukraine, a chunk of territory and people he believes is a part of Russia, if not literally, then socially, ethnically, and culturally. He wants the Ukraine back, but more important, he does not want the West to take it away from him. In the eastern section of the Ukraine lie two territories that call themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Putin has his annexation eyes firmly fixed upon them, recently evacuating thousands to Russian territory and firing upon ‘resistors’. Meanwhile back in the Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a former comic turned politician, is regarded by some as over his head and may not know how to deal with the current existential crisis. His country is on the verge of being militarily overwhelmed and there are only a few alternatives. I have a short list, but before going there, let’s remember what we do not appear to have learned from history. In 1914, Europe pushed itself into WWI by decades of encroachments and political slights, ignoring a plethora of signs and ending up in a terribly pursued and incredibly destructive war. Then the “victors” were overly harsh in their punishment and pushed Germany against a wall and directly into its warlike and racist persona and voila, there was WWII and the Holocaust. This is as good a time as any to recall the regions of Alsace–Lorraine, taken from Germany after WWI and almost immediately retaken by Germany at the beginning of WWII. People were evacuated to Germany, ostensibly for their own protection, but also to make room for occupying forces. Back in the USSR, after its dissolution between 1988 and 1991, Vladimir Putin began the slow burn that has led to the current crisis. But the West, having learned little from history, pushed for the loyalty of the former Soviet states on its eastern flank. These states, hard against Russia’s eastern boundary, the most important of these countries in Putin’s eyes being the Ukraine, could have been better nursed into balanced relationships between the European Union and NATO and Russia. Had Europe been more circumspect and less jubilant about the breakup of the USSR and had the world, including the U.S. been more economically helpful to Russia 30 years ago, we might not have the crisis today that is so reminiscent of the situations before WWI and WWII. The Ukraine has a few alternatives at this juncture. If sanctions, just now ramping up do not cause Russia to back off, the Ukraine can fight and hope that (predictably) too little too late military help from NATO will drive Russia back when it sees the cost of the incursion is too high. NATO could surprise everyone by committing heavy military assets to the Ukraine’s defense, starting yesterday in my opinion. NATO heavy bombers would need to degrade Russian tanks and artillery and deal with a formidable air force. Or, Zelenskyy can offer an immediate surrender to prevent destruction and loss of life. In this latter scenario, the Russians occupy Kyiv and other parts of the Ukraine and its people ask the world to come to their aid. In the first scenario, there would be much destruction and we would end up in the same place anyway. Finally, we could see stranger outcomes. The two that come to mind involve Putin. First, he could realize that his preoccupation and mourning is more unhealthy than is good for Russia and the world and decide to declare victory and back off. If this were to happen, the West would be wise to let him do so and save face. Or, Putin could be taken out of the picture via a coup or assassination. Both are highly unlikely. Hopefully there is more to say, things I do not know or understand from history and political science. Greater minds than mine must help us deal with this mess. I hope they do.
Anthony R. Candela, Author
Saying aloud what should not remain silent.
Stand Up Or Sit Out: Memories and Musings Of a Blind Wrestler, Runner, and All-around Regular Guy
A memoir about life lessons learned, especially through sports
Vision Dreams: A Parable
A sci-fi novella about how a dysfunctional society forces people to go to extremes, including four blind people who seek out artificial vision.
Christian Faith Publishing, 2019
Tony Candela has worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor, supervisor, manager consultant and administrator for more than 40 years in the field of blindness and visual impairment. His work has included promoting literacy and employment of blind persons and a special interest in enhancing the career preparation of blind persons who wish to work in the computer science field. He is a “retired” athlete, loves movies, sports, reading, writing, and music, including dabbling in guitar. Read more at: https://www.anthonyrcandela.com/