The Dangers of Certainty in Uncertain Times

  • National Newswatch

The game is changing regarding the West's approach to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and a brief look under the hood reveals a more aggressive stand against Putin's designs.  The original delivery of “defensive” weaponry to Ukraine has now openly morphed into the transfer of “offensive” capabilities, especially against Russian air supremacy.The increase in high-profile visits directly to Ukraine by European and American high officials inevitably results in increased promises for increased military capacity to help Ukraine eventually gain the upper hand.  The change came out into the open when a British defence official noted that it would now be legitimate for Ukraine to use these transferred weapons to strike within Russia itself.While the fear of Putin's threat to use the nuclear option remains a cause of great concern, it no longer has the effect of paralyzing the Western response.  This is partly due to the worry of what the Russian leader will take on next, should he succeed in Ukraine.  This is key, since any attempt to extend his grip beyond just Ukraine will continue to have severe consequences for the rest of the world into the future.  The intent now seems to be to take more significant risks and halt the Russian assault so that it can't be used as a staging point for more substantial military and political designs by Putin.It was inevitable that this change in Western response would occur during those critical days when Russia began openly targeting civilians, obliterating entire towns and cities, choking off humanitarian supply routes, and come perilously close to deploying chemical weaponry, if he hadn't done so already.  It became too much to bear since it elevated what was an aggressive military expansion into a war crimes motherlode of evidence.  Perhaps the response would have been different if Russian forces had, as intended, run over Ukrainian territory and claimed quick victory.  The sheer effectiveness of the Ukrainian response on both an emotional and military level persuaded Western leaders that any effort on their part to assist might result in Russian defeat.We are witnessing a combined effort by a group of mostly NATO members to seal off not just Russia's defeat of Ukraine but its future.  In becoming a global pariah, Putin burned the bridges he required to restore his country's former greatness.  The statement by western officials last week that they will assist Ukraine to regain all the territory lost to this conflict “as a minimum” revealed that western leaders are looking to the future, not just the present.  Sweden and Finland's statements of interest in now joining NATO spoke to a different coming era.A determined attempt is underway to starve Putin of his imperial designs.  A growing list of political, diplomatic, and economic actions to isolate Russia in the years ahead could well rob the Russian leader of his goals.  It could also turn him into a monster who will flail out in all directions rather than admit defeat.  Either way, the dye is cast as the world looks to a future with a minimized Russia, not a greater one.  While the fear of a nuclear option remains, the consequences of a Putin victory terrifies the West.Are we entering a new frontier, a gunslinger era where only might is right and dominant victory is more important than a negotiated settlement?  If so, we are in for years of uncertainty and danger, where the massive challenges of climate change, poverty, refugees, and economic stability will take a back seat to military designs?  Could we end up effectively isolating Putin while at the same time losing our focus on other global threats that should concern us even more?  Might we end up with crisis following crisis that continues to drive down the global economy and its hopes?Just a cautionary note.  This past weekend, Fareed Zakaria reminded us that it is highly inaccurate to term this as a war of democracy versus autocracy since many significant democracies – Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, and South Africa, to name some – refuse to join the Western coalition.  This is the old Cold War revived, but with new dangers and threatened outcomes.  We are now entering a dangerous phase, one in which a sense of Western certainty could pose as much a danger as Putin's own clarity of purpose.Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Norway was considering joining NATO.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.