ON DISTANT SHORE: Isolation will eventually take its toll

In the distant past, countries would come to the rescue of aggrieved nations by sending troops to help fight the aggressors.

That was the case in the first two world wars. After Germany and Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia and Romania, and annexed Belgium following the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 by a Serbian assassin, the world was plunged into the First World War.

Great Britain, France, Italy and other European nations sent troops to defend Serbia and fight the Germans. Russia saw on opportunity to control the Balkans and Tsar Nicolas II mobilized troops to fight the Germans and Austrian-Hungarians on July 30, 2014.

The United States joined the fray when President Woodrow Wilson sent American troops to Europe after German submarines attacked passenger and merchant ships plying the Atlantic Ocean.

With the infusion of US troops, the tide of battle turned and Germany eventually surrendered and signed an armistice agreement on Nov. 11, 1918, which made it pay huge reparations to countries damaged by the war.

Determined to avenge the humiliation and the economic woes suffered by Germany, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler rebuilt the country’s army in violation of the Treaty of Versailles that ended the previous war. He annexed Austria and forced Czechoslovakia to surrender Sudetenland. The war-weary European neighbors called for peace and convinced the Cezchs to give Sudetenland up in exchange for Hitler’s promise not to annex more territories.

A few months later, in March 1939, Germany invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia and devoured Poland in September that year, again plunging Europe to another major war. Great Britain, under the new Prime Minister Winston Churchill, sent troops to France to rescue British troops trapped in Dunkirk and showed to the world that the Germans were not invincible.

Churchill convinced US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to send tanks and weapons to help Britain fight the Germans. A few months later, Roosevelt was able to convince Congress to come out of its isolation to help fight the Germans. The arrival of American troops and the entry of Russia after it was attacked by Hitler’s troops, turned the tide against Germany.

Fast forward to 2022, or almost 80 years since the Germans’ surrender and the eventual surrender of Japan, the world is now faced with another aggression that threatens to plunge us into another devastating world war.

Again Europe and America are cautious not to intervene militarily, not because they are wary about fighting Russia, but because sending troops into Ukraine might trigger a nuclear war, which has the potential of instantly killing millions of people and rendering a big chunk of Earth unlivable for decades. But in a new world where nations are interconnected by technology and commerce, the Allies may have found an alternative to nuclear annihilation on both sides, at least until Putin goes mad and decides to march on to other neighboring nations as Hitler did in 1939, in which case the West would have to resort to military intervention.

Although the US, France and other European nations are sending weapons and other military equipment to help Ukraine fight the Russians, they have stopped short of direct military intervention.

Economic, diplomatic and other forms of sanctions are now the weapons of choice in such military aggressions, at least in its early stages. The US, Europe and other countries showed their support for Ukraine and their condemnation of the unprovoked invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The idea is to hopefully put pressure on Putin to reconsider his attack on Ukraine. With the Russian economy expected to suffer greatly from such sanctions, it is hoped that domestic pressure from the Russian people would weaken Putin’s resolve.

Aside from individual sanctions imposed by foreign governments on Russia’s exports, and access to air space and the SWIFT international payment system, among others, major corporations have severed their business ties with Russia.

Among the major companies that have severed ties with Russia since its Ukraine attack are BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, Accenture, Austrian firm OMV, Boeing, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, UPS, FedEx, Sabre Corporation, H&M, GM, BMW, Harley Davidson, Nike, IKEA, Inditex (Zara brand), Prada, Ford, Renault, Toyota, Occidental Petroleum, British Petroleum, Apple, Disney and many others.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sanctions are also building up with the US expelling 12 Russian diplomats, closing its embassy in Belarus, and ordering its citizens and non-essential embassy staff to leave Russia. The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the attack and demanding Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine. A total of 141 nations, including the Philippines, voted in favor of the resolution; 35 nations, including China and India, abstained; while only Russia, Belarus and three others voted no.

The UN Security Council also overwhelmingly voted to condemn Russia’s action and demand immediate withdrawal, which would have allowed UN to send peacekeeping, aka military, forces to Ukraine. Eleven of the 15 members voted yes, and three – China, India and UAE – abstained. But Russia, which as one of five permanent members has veto powers, vetoed the UNSC action.

Earlier, more than 100 diplomats from 40 nations walked out as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was addressing the UN body in a taped message. The UN Human Rights Council, meanwhile, opened its investigation of alleged human rights violations by Russia in Ukraine, following a similar probe by the International Criminal Court.

US President Joe Biden was scheduled to announce a US ban on Russian oil imports Tuesday, but this is not expected to put much pressure on Russia (US accounts for only 5% of Russian oil imports) unless European countries join the ban.

Even the historically neutral Switzerland, which stayed neutral through the two world wars until now, has come out to condemn Russia and imposed its own sanctions.

The US and its allies have also imposed sanctions, frozen assets and seized yachts and mansions of Russian oligarchs, who are now reportedly feeling the pinch and trying to convince Putin to stop his war.

But all these sanctions haven’t deterred Putin from continuing his aggression, which has attacked civilian targets in an obvious effort to destroy the spirit of the brave Ukrainian people and force them to give up the fight. He has defied Russian war protesters and jailed hundreds of them instead. He has become a true clone of Hitler, who defied his top generals to continue his misguided aggression and ended up shooting himself in a lonely bunker under Berlin as the Allies closed in.

Putin may win the war in Ukraine, but the long-term effect of the sanctions and the isolation of Russia will in eventually take its toll on Putin and the Russian people. To paraphrase Roosevelt, Putin and his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine will live in infamy. It will also be remembered as the day the world united to repulse aggression.