Many have suggested that the West’s failure to respond to Russian aggression against Georgia led directly to the annexation of Crimea, the war in the Donbass, and Moscow’s moves in Syria; but Babchenko is making a larger and in many ways more important point: the West didn’t understand because it did not want to understand.
“All the technologies Russia is applying now in Ukraine were forged then. The present-day DNR and LNR were forged then. The present ‘we’re not there’ lies were forced then. The present zombification was born and began to grow there, Babchenko says.
“Then the world did not understand this,” he continues. “It did not want to understand.” Instead it talked about peacemaking by the sides in the conflict instead of about repelling the aggressor and occupier. It was not prepared to call things, including war and aggression, by their own names. And to a large extent, it still isn’t prepared lest it be forced to act forcefully.
“As a result,” he says, “we have what we have.” And what we will continue to have if the world continues in denial about what Putin’s Russia is all about. But that dangerous trajectory is not only affecting what Moscow does abroad but what Moscow does at home – and perhaps some will be concerned about that, Babchenko continues.
In 2008, some Russians were able to go into the streets with slogans like “I am Georgia.” Today, because Putin has tightened his grip, few will risk doing the same with ones like “I am Ukraine.” That means that Putin will not be constrained by his own population; and if he is going to be stopped from a repetition of his war in Georgia, outsiders must help.
They didn’t do enough in Georgia a decade ago; they aren’t yet willing to do enough in Ukraine now. But if they want to have a peaceful world, they must face their fears, recognize the nature of Moscow’s aggression and take steps to repel it rather than allowing Putin a seat at the table to resolve “conflicts.”
Those “conflicts” are things he as an aggressor has created. They must be repelled rather than become the object of talks.