Opinion: After years of divisions, disputes and unending tolerance for authoritarianism, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has given the West in general, and the polarized U.S. in particular, a reason to unite

The West has been harshly, and mostly justifiably, criticized for years. Mainly, for being weak, limp, spoiled, and far too preoccupied with reconciliation when it came to rogue elements in the geo-political arena. Evidence of the West’s laxity is everywhere.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama famously told Syrian President Bashar Assad that there are red lines that he mustn’t cross when it comes to the Syrian civil war – such as the use of illegal chemical weapons.

US President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during the US-Russia summit on Wednesday in Geneva
U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a U.S.-Russia summit in Geneva, 2021 (Photo: EPA)


Assad eventually used chemical weapons, and despite its promises, neither America nor the west ever responded. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In September 2015, the West gave Moscow the authority to oversee the situation in Syria. Russia has been there ever since, and shows no intention of ever leaving.

Amid the West’s growing laxity, Russia started regaining its image as a formidable superpower.

The tattered 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran was also perceived — and rightly so — as another sign of the West’s growing weakness.

Ukrainian service members collect unexploded shells after a fighting with Russian raiding group in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv
Ukrainian service members collect unexploded shells in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv (Photo: AFP)


The West was also content with simply forgetting two ill-fated Russian ventures.

The first is the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which lasted about a decade, and ended with at least 15,000 soldiers killed and about 600,000 to 2,000,000 Afghan civilian casualties.

The second is the war in Chechnya, which lasted from 1999 to 2009, and saw Russia decimate the country and kill tens of thousands of Chechens after its subjugation attempts failed.

These two “adventures” yielded no real achievements for Moscow, and were subject to very little criticism both from within and from the international community.

גרוזני צ'צ'ניה
Buildings in Grozny, the capital city of Chechnya, destroyed amid war with Russian forces (Photo: Shutterstock)


It seemed as though Russia learned its lesson from its previous failures. And most of all, it seemed as though it was impressed by the West’s laxity – which was supposed to undo the balance of power between the West and Moscow.

The United States and the European Union’s GDP in 2020 stood at $35 trillion, compared to Russia’s $1.5 trillion. America’s annual defense budget for 2021 was about $601 billion, compared to Russia’s $84.5 billion.

When taking NATO’s military might into account, Russia is like a sheep staring down the elephant that is the West. But the sheep roared and sprinted into action as it was sure that the mighty elephant was afraid of its own shadow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is no führer, but Hitler too, was sure that the West was weak when he decided to go ahead with the offensive that eventually became World War II.

fire and smoke rises over a damaged logistic center after shelling in Kyiv
Smoke rises over a damaged logistic center after a Russian shelling in Kyiv (Photo: AP)


Putin looks at the West in general, and the U.S. in particular, and sees endless self-flagellation. He sees slogans calling on Western governments to stop funding the police, as well as the army.

Putin deceived his people by telling them that the invasion of Ukraine would be like the Nazi’s unabated march on Czechoslovakia. His predictions did not come true. Ukraine refuses to surrender and the West agitates.

True, no Western country has thus far sent troops to Ukraine, but most opted to send weapons, and after years of divisions and disputes, the West in general, and the polarized U.S. in particular, appear to have a reason to unite.

Russia – the second largest gas, and the third largest oil producer – is far from collapsing despite the multitude of sanctions imposed on it by the West. Many countries still need its energy sources.

שריפה אש עשן ב שוק Barabashovo מ הפגזות תקיפות הרס נזק ב חרקוב אוקראינה מלחמה באירופה משבר רוסיה פלישה
A smoke rises over Kharkiv’s Barabashovo market in wake of Russian bombings (Photo: Reuters)


But an impressive change is indeed upon us, which is difficult to ignore – tens of millions in the West are willing to pay a dear economic price just to impose sanctions on the Kremlin.

One question, however, remains up in the air. How is it that the emerging West vis-à-vis Russia is still so weak vis-à-vis Iran?
Just this week, Iran fired missiles at an American base stationed in Iraq under the pretext that it was a base of Israel’s Mossad. And the Americans? They opted to remain silent.

The West’s determination against Russia made it look stronger than in the past few decades. It will look even better if it shows similar determination against Iran.

As reported by Ynetnews