On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia’s President Putin launched a massive military invasion of Ukraine. Once again in my lifetime, a power-hungry madman overrides reason, bankrupts diplomacy of options in conflict resolution, and causes suffering and bloodshed.
I am unnerved by Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. I lived my childhood under both Stalin and Hitler’s occupation of my native Lithuania during World War II. I can attest to oppressors’ brutality.
In response, U.S. President Biden imposed economic sanctions on Russia, President Putin, and many rich, influential Russians. NATO allies imposed similar sanctions.
Rebuke of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is worldwide. Australia called Russia a “pariah state” and called for diplomatic isolation. India, in a muted response, offered humanitarian aid, and Japan “stiffened” its resolve against Russia.
A catastrophic humanitarian crisis evolved on Poland’s border with Ukraine, as Russian forces advanced toward Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian women and children are seeking sanctuary in Poland, while their men returned to fight the Russian onslaught. Poland and other neighbors of Ukraine opened their borders and their hearts to those fleeing.
I empathize with the Ukrainians. I know their desperation. In August 1944, I too became a refugee from the westward advance of the Russian front in World War II. My mother and I embarked on our refugee journey to war-torn Germany to avoid capture and deportation to a Siberian gulag by the Russians. We also faced the threat of death posed by American and British saturation bombings of German cities.
I shudder as I view TV images of thousands huddling, sheltering in Kyiv’s subway stations. A memory of a harrowing night in a railroad tunnel under Berlin haunts me again. The violent shaking of our boxcar and muffled sounds of explosions woke me up. Our train was in a tunnel. Above us, Berlin was being bombed.
I feared we might be buried alive.
America’s economic sanctions create havoc on Russia’s monetary system and are expected to stifle Russia’s economy. Momentarily, Putin is off balance, but he will retaliate. Hopefully, his response will not be as extreme as that of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in protest to President Roosevelt’s imposition of an economic embargo on Japan in 1941.
Cyber attacks on America’s power grids, transportation logistics, utilities, and food processors may be Putin’s tactics of choice. He has discovered that America is vulnerable to such attacks.
Russia’s economy has been stifled as planned. But there will also be a negative fallout to the economy of the world, and the economy of the United States. The shutting-out of a trading partner from world markets will exact a price from all.
Interspersed among the plethora of disheartening news from the war, there is a minute flash of human hope. Thousands of Russians engaged in a Western-like activity. They rallied to protest Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Putin has repeatedly voiced his fears of Russia becoming westernized.
His worst fears are materializing.