One of the biggest frustrations for Diaspora Ukrainians has been the reluctance of the major western powers to provide any meaningful aid to Ukraine during its life or death struggles with the Russian bear in the past six months. There has, of course, been lots of talk and promises but little tangible aid, particularly of the military kind to help Ukraine’s beleaguered and impoverished armed forces fight off well-armed, well supplied and well led mercenary forces in Eastern Ukraine.
Several weeks ago, Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, V. Prystaiko, lamented that some $200 million in aid promised by Canada to Ukraine was still nowhere to be seen, despite the critical financial and military situation in the country. This was strongly echoed by P. Grod, head of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Needless to say, government officials were quick to issue all kinds of justification as to why it was necessary to follow due process, work out the details for aid distribution, agree on conditions, etc. What was missing was any sense of urgency that recognized the fact that Ukrainians in the Donbas were and are dying by the score while the Canadian federal bureaucracy dithers over commas and clauses.
All this brings home the political reality that unless it is close to home, people dying eslewhere are just a statistic to most governments, including our so-called enlightened western ones. Ukraine is but one current example. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died over several years while the world looks on. The Middle East has been in turmoil for most of the past century with countless victims mounting annually. African genocides have taken place on a regular basis over decades with the full knowledge of the world community and little effort to stop them. Twentieth century is replete with genocides and ethnic cleansings that took place while the so-called “civilized” western world blithely turned and looked the other way.
It is obvious that in the grand equations, which define the rules of modern geopolitics, the lives of ordinary people, particularly people of unfamiliar race or ethnicity, count for far too little. The dominating factors, which determine international political strategies, have more to do with dollars, petroleum, assets and real estate than human lives and well-being.
Putin, who is behind many of the recidivist wars and terrorist movements on this turbulent planet, counts on this in support of his quest to revive his primitive imperialistic ambitions. So far, Europe and the West have been far too reluctant to prove him wrong. The crisis in Ukraine is but the latest move in a decade’s long strategy that Putin has been implementing while we have indulged in our naïve beliefs that the Cold War was over.
For the past twenty years, Putin has been methodically using Russia’s bountiful petroleum resources to make Europe dependent on Russia for its economic well-being. He and his oligarchs have invested heavily in European businesses and real estate. He has co-opted many of Europe’s rich and powerful by lucrative “consulting” contracts and board memberships on Russian controlled corporations.As has become evident in recent months, this has had a corrosive effect on Europe’s willingness to deal strongly and effectively with Putin’s blatant aggression against Ukraine. Although I would hazard a guess that most ordinary Europeans are dismayed with Putin’s illegal behaviour and would be willing to support Ukraine, their leaders, nervously eyeing their bank accounts and balance sheets, have done little except issue statements and plead with both sides to negotiate. One cannot help but ask the question of how one negotiates with a terrorist that hasn’t the slightest desire to negotiate. It is also clear that most of the major European states are willing to sacrifice Ukraine and Ukrainians to the Russians, just as they have done many times over the past several centuries.
In a way, despite the horror of the MH-17 tragedy, one positive to come out of it was that it was no longer just Ukrainians dying out there. Among the victims were Dutch, Malaysians, Australians and even a Canadian. It finally hit home to these morally relativistic power brokers that they had better wake up before they find little green men in their own backyard. It is time the world realized that Putin is not just Ukraine’s problem, but a problem for all of mankind.