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I sort of get the official reasons why the West did not just let Russia to just swallow Ukraine:

  • Invading other countries and taking what's not yours is bad (even if some of it used to be yours in the past). Whoever attempts to do so needs to be stopped and educated, even if they have nukes.
  • Not keeping your promises is bad. Again, whoever does so needs to be taught some good manners.
  • The modern Ukraine is fresh, democratic, shining and promising. It would be a pity see it go down the maw of a big, rogue, filthy & totalitarian bully.

But. Let's just step back and see what would have happened if the West stayed absolutely neutral and did not support Ukraine at all. Imagine no military supplies, no money, no training/advice, nothing:

  • Russia would have squashed Ukraine forces, removed Zelenskyy and put a puppet in his place (e.g. Yanukovych).
  • Ukraine would have de-facto become just yet another part of Mordor Russia.
  • There would have been virtually no civilian blood (comparing to how much has spilt by now).
  • There would have been virtually no destruction of buildings/infrastructure.
  • There would have been virtually no new influx of refugees.
  • Europe would have continued buying Russian oil & gas. The prices would stay stable, no energy crisis would occur.
  • The inflation would stay normal.

And, arguably, Russia wouldn't have continued invading further in Europe. Unlike Ukraine, that would have been a direct aggression against NATO: Russia may be blatantly impudent but not suicidal. Also, whereas trying to conquer Ukraine sort-of makes sense in the light of it being the common historical ancestor land, trying to get other parts of Europe wouldn't have that sort of "justification".

So, the above was the alternative scenario which by all means was available to the West, and I struggle to believe that the availability of it wasn't clear. No rocket science or quantum mechanics here.

Yet the West has chosen the costly and bloody option.

Was it really about standing on principle of what is right and what is wrong?

Somehow it seems way too naive to accept that as the real motive (no matter how I may personally agree with the principles).

Rather, wasn't the whole thing indeed just about leadership on this planet? Childish power game? Aiming to establish/maintain a single main leader nation/agenda/philosophy vs allowing multiple ones?

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    Seems odd to characterize this as "the West has chosen the costly and bloody option" ... seems like Russia made that choice. Oct 3, 2022 at 20:08
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    I'm voting to close this Q because it fits the pattern "I don't believe the official reasons, what were the real reasons?" Answers to these kinds of Qs tend to be primarily opinion-based. Oct 3, 2022 at 20:12
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    Seems to me this is asking why we can't just ignore the rights of Ukraine and all of the citizens so that Putin can get his way and possibly move on to doing the same with other countries now that a precedent has been set.
    – Joe W
    Oct 3, 2022 at 20:18
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    then why bring up the notion of blood spilled? it is not Western blood, so you're basically saying "no, you can't choose to defend yourself cuz loss of human lives, we'll decide, on your behalf, that you have to live subjugated instead". It just doesn't seem all that solid an argument. Oct 3, 2022 at 21:24
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    This question is being discussed on Meta.
    – Rick Smith
    Oct 4, 2022 at 1:45

1 Answer 1

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The thing with allowing forcible redefinitions of borders is that brings back a major motivation for wars, territorial expansion.

If on the other hand, conquered and annexed territories are not recognized as being part of the aggressor, and if territorial acquisition is counteracted on principle, we are left with a lot of other causes for the waging of wars, but not this one.

A second motivation is that the rest of Europe isn't particularly comfortable with a Russia that wants to re-impose its will upon its neighbors. Stopping it in Ukraine, by arming Ukraine, is cheaper and safer than stopping it elsewhere, in an EU/NATO country. This was for example answered here re. Poland's motivation in assisting Ukraine.

Third, from a realpolitik viewpoint, there is a real risk for the West in taking the easy way out, like they did in 2014. Not so much with Russia, which was already known to be a shadow of its Soviet predecessor, even before outdoing itself in mediocrity during this war. But with China which would have taken that as a sign of weakness and possibly moved in its own neighborhood (Taiwan, Spratleys, etc...). China has the potential to be a much more challenging opponent than Russia and losing Taiwan's, and indeed China's own, supply chains would be a much harder economic blow to the West.

Best to negotiate a compromise from a position of strength and resolve, not weakness and timidity.

Last, the suggested approach * was taken by Europe in 2014, keeping the peace at all costs. Yet, here we are in 2022, with the same needs-to-be-accommodated Putin. And no peace.

* the armaments given Ukraine pre-2022 weren't very numerous and mostly defensive in nature, ill-suited to invade. Ukraine was kept out of NATO. Ukraine presented no real threat to Russia.

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  • How big is the case for many more wars coming back if Russia was allowed to get away with redefining its borders to those of Ukraine? Would the whole world start trying to re-define borders? Or would only a few countries settle some remainders and that's all? Oct 3, 2022 at 21:26
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    The West followed exactly your logic in 2014 so is now the proverbial scalded cat. Oct 3, 2022 at 21:30
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    @YetAnotherDude: the problem for NATO is that among those "few countries" with sizeable Russian minorities, some are in NATO. politics.stackexchange.com/questions/71718/… And you don't know who else may get ideas (again). China and Pakistan both claim various chunks of India, They both fought (separate) wars against India etc. Oct 3, 2022 at 22:17
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    @YetAnotherDude: and while not so much NATO's problem, Russia's own formal allies from the CSTO are either silent (most of them) or not recognizing the recent referendums (Kazakhstan) rferl.org/a/russia-annexation-ukraine-central-asia/… Most if not all of them have significant Russian minorities too, so yeah... Oct 5, 2022 at 3:19
  • Re your "2014 logic" reference, I am not sure what significant changes in terms of borders you are referring to. It was just Ukraine back then that Russia had invaded, and it is still only Ukraine today. What's the case for any real chances that Russia would go after any NATO country? Oct 6, 2022 at 0:59

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