Has Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a fatal miscalculation?
A lot is being written these days about Russian president Vladimir Putin’s miscalculation concerning Europe and NATO’s resolve. Putin, they say, expected his invasion of Ukraine to be a cakewalk. Russian soldiers at the front are reportedly saying they were told they were liberating the Ukrainian people and that they would be welcomed with open arms.
Instead, they are meeting fierce resistance from a people Putin has said are “one” with Russians: “Russians and Ukrainians have always been one people,” Putin has said on several occasions. Which begs the question: why is Putin bombing his own people? But I digress.
The outcome of the invasion of Ukraine has never been in doubt. Ukraine will fall. And as Putin’s right-hand man was quoted as saying yesterday, the West will eventually get over its “hysteria” and it will be back to business as usual with Russia.
At the outset, Putin advised Ukrainian soldiers and citizens to lay down their arms and stay home. If they had heeded that advice, Russia would have taken Ukraine without force, the million or so Ukrainian refugees in neighbouring countries would still be at home, and the nation would have been spared the devastation of Putin’s bombs. Most important: no lives would have been lost.
The Ukrainian government would have been dissolved with a puppet regime put in place, and the current leaders could have been allowed to leave the country. And for the average Ukrainian, the overthrow of their government might not have changed their lives all that much. But now, their nation and their lives are in ruin, and the rest of the world has been destabilized.
There is an old expression by one Oliver Goldsmith:
“He who fights and runs away
May live to fight another day;
But he who is battle slain
Can never rise to fight again.”
So, why did the Ukrainian president lead his people into a battle they cannot win, with all its terrible consequences? With all the lives lost, never to rise to fight again? Why didn’t he step aside, retreat and live to fight another day?
OK, I know what many of you might say: One needs to stand up to a bully, or else that bully will bully more and more people. But there is more than one way to fight a bully. In this case, killing the bully seems to be the favoured option by many, if the #KillPutin hashtag on Twitter today is any indication.
The Ukrainian president instead went with the “live free or die” motto. I get that, on an emotional level. But what about all the lives lost, lives that could have been saved to fight another day, if necessary?
This is not Russia vs. Ukraine. It’s Putin vs. Ukraine. Only one life needed to be lost in all of this: Vladimir Putin’s.
Instead, Putin will survive, and Zelenskyy will die along with so many others on both sides of the battle.
What would I have done in Zelenskyy’s shoes? I would have put my full focus on removing Putin from power, either by assassination or working to depose him. I would not have allowed my people to be murdered by Putin if there was a way to avoid it.
But that is just me.
What would you have done faced with Zelenskyy’s dilemma?