Usually foreign policy is expressed and implemented with the cold calculations of national interests, based on the balance of power prevailing in the region or globally – on the basis of so-called geostrategic principles.
Recently, in a historic speech to Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tried to persuade U.S. lawmakers to include humanitarian reasons in national calculations to counter Russia’s invasion of his country as well.
“We need you right now,” he said. “I call on you to do more.”
Zelenskyy continued: “Is this too much to ask, to create a no fly zone over Ukraine?”
Who can really remain unmoved in the face of Zelenskyy’s appeal?
Who today can remain unmoved in the face of images of thousands of victims, millions of refugees, and the biblical destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure caused by the Russian invasion?
Who does not want to stand up to the Russian people like the courageous TV producer who held up a sign on Russia’s most popular television program, on which she wrote “No War… You are being fed propaganda by this station”?
Who wants to see a weak nation be pounded by a more powerful one?
The Ukrainian president used events from American history, such as Pearl Harbor, to persuade American lawmakers not to remain indifferent, because the time will come when Russia, like Japan at the time, will strike a hard blow against their country.
That line of thought does make sense. It is the well-known theory that appeasement must always be avoided. Constant retreat in the face of an invader, instead of leading to peace, leads to war according to this thinking.
This theory should always be taken seriously, so that history does not repeat itself. At the same time, however, it must be complemented by a new element that was absent from previous wars: the fact that Russia has thousands of nuclear weapons and which, for the first time in human history, has put them all on alert.
Putin is likely bluffing.
But it is also possible that he does mean to destroy the whole world if he and his country are destroyed.
So, if America created a no fly zone over Ukraine, as Zelenskyy asks, then this could almost certainly lead to a war with Russia, that is, to a Third World War.
President Biden has rightly stated, therefore, that America is not going to get involved in a war with Russia over Ukraine.
He has, however, also clarified, beyond any doubt, that he considers Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty sacred, that an attack on a member country is tantamount to an attack on all NATO countries.
And he should stick to that, in case that Putin tests us.