If the West doesn’t want World War III, then it has nothing to offer the Ukrainians except shock, expressions of sympathy and sighs. In the meantime, the dimensions of the atrocity become clearer every day. And Putin? He is determined to continue negotiations. From his perspective, these are parallel lines that never meet.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy walked the streets of liberated Bucha in what remained of the small suburb. His eyes reflected the horrors of what he saw: — bodies of men, women and children who had been shot, burned out skeletons of buildings, basements where families tried to hide from the shooting. Satellite photos published in The New York Times left no room for doubt: the bodies appeared in the streets of Bucha during the Russian occupation and when the soldiers withdrew, they left a scorched earth and many civilian victims behind them.
Along with the difficult scenes from Bucha, there was also news of mass acts of rape (there is no exact information on all the injured because some of them have not been revealed and it is already clear that there are thousands), torture and acts of looting. All these actions fall under the category of war crimes. Criminal responsibility falls on the perpetrators of crimes and they can be brought to justice.
The scenes from Bucha and other Ukrainian cities such as Irpin, Berdyansk or Mariupol should not have been surprising. The Russians have never fought with kid gloves — cities in Chechnya, villages in Georgia and whole neighborhoods in Syria were completely wiped out, with nothing remaining. The sole exception was the Crimea peninsula, primarily because Ukraine was surprised, and there was almost no opposition to this move.
During the bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol, and during the bombing of Kharkiv, which took the life of a survivor from the Buchenwald concentration camp, 96-year-old Boris Romanchenko, it was clear that the war against Ukraine in March 2022 would not be at all similar to the annexation of Crimea in March 2014. Still, it is impossible not to be shocked by stories of women being raped in the streets of Ukraine and the sight of tied-up bodies lying on the side of the road in destroyed cities.
Condemnations Will Not Stop the Massacre
The question is what can the world offer the Ukrainians other than shock, expressions of sympathy and sighing while saying “how terrible.” They all know there is a war going on in Ukraine, the Russians are shooting indiscriminately, and the likelihood of crimes such as these is high. The West chose not to defend Ukraine so as not to go to war with Russia, a nuclear power that constantly reminds the world of this.
After the photos from Bucha were released, the United States announced additional sanctions against Russia, which now cannot pay its debts from its foreign currency reserves that were being kept for a rainy day. In Spain, they have confiscated another oligarch’s yacht and in Israel, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that “Ukraine is blaming Russia and Russia is blaming Ukraine for committing war crimes.” The Ukrainians will receive a few more weapons and a little more money.
But neither the harsh nor weak condemnations nor the much harsher sanctions will bring back the dead and will not stop the massacre in Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden can say a thousand times that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, but this will not stop the fighting or bring the Russian president closer to the International Criminal Court at the Hague.
Around May 9, victory day over Germany in World War II, Russia is expected to increase the attacks on Ukraine. The next city in line could be Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city. At the same time, Putin is determined to continue negotiations. From his perspective, these are parallel lines that will never meet. The Ukrainians also continue to negotiate so they will not be accused of refusing peace.
That said, everyone knows the war will continue and the division of Ukraine will also continue. The West knows that in order to stop Putin, it must pay a very heavy price — World War III with a nuclear war option. It appears that, at the moment, with all the sympathy and fondness for the Ukrainians, no one is ready to pay the necessary price.