The past several days have been historic ones in Ukraine’s development as a sovereign and democratic nation. Moscow’s unprovoked attack on and seizure of three Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea on November 25 began this process. This attack represents a serious escalation of Kremlin aggression because it was done openly by regular Russian military forces. Moscow was not hiding its role—as in the Donbas—behind the fiction that local “separatists” were running a rebellion.
While some Western statesmen, European Council President Donald Tusk and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo come to mind, quickly condemned Moscow’s attack, others called for restraint by both sides. In other words, for restraint by the aggressor and the victim. Such assessments are craven. And they rely on the notion that the key issue in Eastern Europe is not Russian revisionism, but Ukraine’s internal inadequacies. At this perilous moment, it is essential for all interested in stability in Europe to understand this geopolitical reality and to make it an embarrassment to utter such nonsense in public.
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Author: John E. Herbst is director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and a former US ambassador to Ukraine.