17 FEBRUARY 2023 | OPINION
The author, Oleksiy Goncharenko, is the Ukrainian MP for Odesa.
It has once again been suggested that Ukraine should just roll over and accept Putin’s invasion and victory. The latest shameful piece to suggest this is a Peter Hitchens commentary in the Mail on Sunday. Within it, he takes the bizarre view that the best outcome for Ukraine and for the world is to surrender and that any position that supports the continuation of war is based on a naïve understanding of conflict and the world.
With the greatest possible respect, this is completely wrong. He is the one who has failed to understand the situation. If you are advocating for peace talks now – while Russia continues to occupy vast tracts of Ukraine – you are de facto calling for Ukraine’s surrender and end as an independent state. Any avid historian should know better than to expect a murderous tyrant to suddenly change their course after a small amount of appeasement.
Just like Hitler, Putin cannot be appeased and will never be satisfied. Putin occupied part of Ukraine 9 years ago. We must never forget that Russia has illegally controlled Crimea since 2014. It is the West’s non-response to that armed annexation of Ukrainian land that gave Putin the confidence to carry out his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
We cannot ignore the obvious parallels to the famous Munich appeasement of Hitler, but once again there are claims that providing Ukraine with “offensive” weapons like tanks, missiles and jets is somehow going to lead to Ukraine invading Russia – that arming Ukraine will somehow “escalate the conflict”. Ukraine will not invade Russia, because it is not a warmongering despotic regime. Ukraine is fighting a defensive war to push Russian invaders out of its territory – territory that includes Crimea.
Given how the article opened, I cannot say I was shocked to then read on and find out that Hitchens implies Crimea to be Russian territory, rather than illegally occupied Ukrainian land. He joins the ranks of the Taliban, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and other Russian puppet states in illegally occupied land in rejecting the international consensus that Crimea is part of Ukraine.
The next step of this apologism? To lambast NATO and Ukraine for having provoked Russia. It is NATO allowing countries to join the defensive alliance that allowed Putin to take hold of Russia. It is Ukraine’s peaceful 2014 protests that caused the invasion, rather than Putin being a murderous expansionist.
There is also a downright offensive comparison between the genocidal actions of the Russian military – Bucha, Izmir, Irpin, Hostomel; the list goes on – and the actions of the Ukrainian military. The false equivalence? Limited accusations from Russian personnel against their captors being recorded by the UN.
Let me turn to the main thrust of those calling for Ukraine’s surrender. That some sort of negotiated peace will end the bloodshed sooner than continuing to provide Ukraine with the materiel it needs to push back Putin. Those calling for Ukraine’s surrender are normally those who denied the obvious when Russia first prepared to attack Ukraine, and it was that type of thinking that held up vital supplies in the early stages of the war.
The clear implication is that Ukraine fighting for its land and to protect its people from invasion is a mistake, and has only led to unnecessary death. From that twisted position, I have no doubt that makes sense – after all, a complete Russian victory in the face of no resistance would have seen much less visible death.
But let me present a different scenario. Imagine the lack of casualties if Ukraine had been outfitted and armed before the war had started, rather than in increasing increments as we demonstrated our resilience. Just think about the situation where Ukraine stops the Russian invasion before it even gets going – before Russian soldiers even got close to our cities.
One final point I would like to readdress. Putin will not stop at partial gains – he will only recognise success when Ukraine no longer exists as a free nation – any “negotiated” peace will only ever be temporary. He did not stop at Crimea, he would not have stopped at the Donbas and he will not stop without the entirety of Ukraine under his thumb.
Putin did not stop at Abzkhazia or in South Ossetia. When you have a warmonger like Putin, he will never be satisfied – he must be stopped.