Why Russia will invade Ukraine

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For Russian President Vladimir Putin, history requires that Russia invade and control Ukraine. Putin perceives Ukraine as a vital buffer for Russian security. Twice in the last two centuries, invaders from Europe have ravaged Russia. In 1812, Napoleon led some 500,000 soldiers into Russia, defeating the Russian Army at the brutal Battle of Borodino and occupying a burning Moscow before his catastrophic retreat through the Russian winter. In June 1941 an unsuspecting Stalin, who had secretly allied with Hitler two years earlier to partition Poland with Germany upon Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland, was stunned when Hitler launched a massive multi-pronged savage invasion of the Soviet Union.

One of the main thrusts of the German invasion was into Ukraine, which Germany quickly overran, corralling some 500,000 Soviet troops in a pincer movement east of and around Kiev. In spring 1942, the Soviet Army incurred major losses in the Second Battle of Kharkov, Ukraine. Ukraine was then a launching point for Hitler’s attack on Stalingrad, where at last the Soviets stopped and began to finally reverse the German onslaught. The Russian Republic of the Soviet Union alone lost an estimated 6,750,000 soldiers and over 7 million civilians in World War II, known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.

Putin was born in 1952. His father and mother suffered greatly in the German siege of Leningrad. His older brother perished. Other family members died in the war.

For centuries, Germany was divided into multiple principalities. While Prussia achieved military prominence, a splintered Germany generally did not threaten neighbors. After Otto Von Bismarck united Germany in the late 1800s, World War I followed in 1914 with costly losses for Russia. Left united after its defeat in that war, some 20 years later Germany again launched war on its neighbors, with catastrophic consequences for Russia.

From the perspective of the victorious Soviet Union, Germany had to be dismembered to remove a future threat. The Soviet Union insured Germany’s dismemberment until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of East Germany in 1989-1990. Stalin also buffered his nation with the “Iron Curtain” of central and eastern European nations, which is now gone along with the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact alliance that countered NATO.

For Putin, Ukraine is an essential part of Russia.

Russia reportedly has been preparing to manage western sanctions. Russia reportedly has already moved medical and other war-making logistical support to sustain its troops massed on Ukraine’s border. Russia intends to invade Ukraine.

In response, the West has publicly eschewed the use of military force. The West won’t even say, “depending on developments all options are on the table” for fear of “provoking” Putin.

What more can the West do? First, expressly make the statement that all options are on the table. Second, support that declaration with an urgent increase now (not after the invasion) and immediate forward positioning in NATO nations adjacent to Ukraine of American and NATO troops and capabilities. Third, publicly explain that the militaristic conduct of Russia and Belarus mandates attention to the protection of NATO borders and interests.

Are these steps overly “provocative?” They cannot provoke an invasion that would be coming anyway, but they stand a good chance of preventing it.

Daniel O. Jamison is a retired attorney who writes on military affairs. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Commentary: Putin isn't bluffing; he'll invade Ukraine