From September 22nd to September 27th, Russian President Vladimir Putin organized sham referendums in four provinces of Ukraine where Russian troops have partly occupied. Residents “agreed” with Russia annexing their hometown by Russian soldiers standing on their doorsteps with guns. Everyone knows these referendums are/were faked, and these polls seem to be set to collocate with Putin’s speech to the Russian parliament. Putin set these polls not only to threaten the West, but also to obtain more power.

The referendums allow Putin to declare that those four provinces belong to Russia officially, even though Putin’s spokesman cannot explain exactly where the borders are. The next step for Putin is perhaps to incorporate more slices of Ukraine into a part of Russia, as in the invasion of Crimea in 2014. In this situation, though the West condemned Russia’s action, they are avoiding escalating because of the simultaneous danger of nuclear weapons being deployed. Putin undoubtedly hopes those referendums will cause Western countries to be afraid of escalating the risk by extending Russia’s “defensible” borders, and their resolve of helping will be cracked, so that his intention can be achieved in the end. If the West acquiesces to Putin’s action, it will invite more similar actions in the future. Putin could claim Russia won a great victory in this conflict, and then use the false excuse of “protecting his people in Ukraine” to make the recent mobilization reasonable. Moreover, Putin makes Russians believe he does things right against “the Western evil.” Paired with the fighting with the West, he aims to obtain more internal power, and this invasion of Ukraine is instrumental in achieving that aim.

From the beginning till now, the West keeps avoiding escalating risk. However, accepting the nuclear blackmail from Putin is too naive, the theft of Crimea is a vivid example from seven years ago. If Putin keeps brandishing the nuclear threat, it reduces the likelihood of measures strong enough to lead to his overthrow, and he can continue his desperately attempts shore up power and protect his dignity.

Now the West needs to insist on support for Ukraine, and claim that NATO has the ability to use missiles to destroy Russian bases to deter Putin if he were to use weapons of mass destruction, but also also prevail on other powerful countries like China and India to show a clear stance against any use of nuclear weapons.

Written by Eddie C.

Edited by Ari B.