Peace with Dictator Today Is War Tomorrow

Albert Bierstadt: A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie // Public domain

The combined military spending of NATO members is 18 times that of Russia, with a massive advantage in all types of weaponry. Being this afraid in a situation like that seems a peculiar way of doing the right thing, Raul Rebane notes in Vikerraadio’s daily comment.

Full-scale war has been raging for over two years in Ukraine, and fatigue is clearly setting in. I believe that many readers also feel the weight of the times both economically and physically and would prefer for it all to be over.

Therefore, it is little wonder that there are moods in European countries or political parties that state peace must be achieved at any cost. The subject matter also surfaces in European Parliament election debates. During a recent debate, the European Left leader Walter Baier did not mince words when he said that since there is no battlefield solution on the horizon, political alternatives should be sought instead. This would mean making peace with Vladimir Putin.

In Estonia, Professor Mati Heidmets has put together the most comprehensive overview of voter moods in different countries. According to the professor, polls show that voters want peace, and voters’ wants sooner or later become what politicians think, write about, and decide. While people stand with Ukraine emotionally, human rights and human life are what matter most, which is why it is believed that non-military solutions must be found.

The “content and meaning of lasting peace” should also come into focus in Estonia. The reason, according to Heidmets, is deeply European. When human lives are at stake, you negotiate with the devil if you need to, especially if it lives in the apartment over and shares your plumbing. The devil in this case is likely Putin, as there is little point in talking to anyone else in Russia.

However, not everyone will find this approach acceptable because the following questions are not easy to answer.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin more than a year ago as he has been deemed a war criminal for abducting children. It would be interesting to see how this decision will be reversed, and who will say, “Apologies, Vladimir Vladimirovich, we were wrong and abducting children is no longer a crime in Europe.”

It would be just as interesting to try and imagine how people in Europe could look the Ukrainians in the eye once this imaginary peace materializes. We would have to say that our voters were no longer in the mood and that you will have to look to your own devices now. While we promised you the European Union and NATO, Europe goes back on its word just as easily as it is given.

The combined military spending of NATO members is 18 times that of Russia, with a massive advantage in all types of weaponry. Being this afraid in a situation like that seems a peculiar way of doing the right thing.

It must also be kept in mind that collective mood swings tend to be all the rage during crises. The polls in which many countries’ voters expressed their fascination with peace were conducted before the U.S. greenlit $61 billion in aid for Ukraine. The panic that followed in Russia came as proof that the call was the right one to make. Polls might say something else if conducted today.

Historical experience is paramount. Making peace with dictators almost always amounts to future war. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought he brought peace from Hitler in Munich in 1938, while reality proved quite different. His so-called peace saw dozens of countries, including Estonia, bombed level. I would love to hear someone try to make the case that Putin is in a more peaceful mindset today than Hitler was in 1938.

These arguments can be overcome if one has a flexible political conscience, but they are not something we here should go along with. Based again on personal experience.

Thirty-four years ago, I had the chance to meet an old lady who had been through the camps in Siberia. She told me how her husband, who worked as a policeman, came home from the Narva border crying and with bloody palms where his fingernails had dug in, following the so-called Soviet bases treaty in 1939. Many in Estonia understood what silent surrender would entail, and the men wanted to fight come what may. But the politicians decided otherwise and opened the gates to Russian troops in the name of what they hoped would be peace. We know the rest…

Luckily, most Estonian politicians still seem to be full of conviction, and Russian troops will not be allowed to simply march over the border again.

Written by Raul Rebane

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