Of Hostile Invasions and Their Burdens

Photo by Nadiia Ganzhyi on Unsplash

It is hard to see what Russians gain from their government’s invasion of its neighbors.  Certainly neither Russian nor Ukrainian soldiers benefit.  That, however, is also true of the people of both nations, now and in the days to come.  How are the leaders of Russia, by recourse to bloody war, serving the people whom they govern?

Vladimir Putin apparently forgot why a prior Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, took Russia out of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  Yeltsin knew, as even Soviet boss Mikhail Gorbachev knew, that the rest of the USSR was a burden and economic drain on Russia.  Supporting and controlling the other Socialist Republics cost more than they returned.  So Yeltsin did what had been until then unthinkable (or unspeakable)—until he did it.  As President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Yeltsin considered what was best for the people of Russia and exercised the nation’s right under the Soviet Constitution to withdraw from the USSR.  It did not take Gorbachev long to recognize that he could do little about it.  Friendless and no longer fed by Russia, the USSR peacefully dissolved.

Today’s Russian economy is noticeably better than the heavy Soviet socialism.  Yet it continues to strain under weighty government control, corruption, and crony favoritism.  Ask the people in far eastern Ukraine—the part dominated by Russia for the last several years—how well Russian economic policies and promises are working for them?  They will not tell you, because they are not allowed to say.  Ask their neighboring Russians how much they have benefited from Russian control of those eastern provinces.  Take your answer from the looks on their faces.

Are those eastern Ukrainian provinces, with their boarded up windows, idle workplaces, unrepaired buildings and streets, and shortages of much of everything, a model for what Putin intends for the rest of Ukraine?  Ukraine has its economic troubles and corruption and cronyism, too, but the Ukrainians who have voted with their feet show why they have been leaving the Russian “liberated zones” and moving west.

Whatever the Russian government may declare to be success by its invasion, I cannot but think that it will be for naught.  Any bloody ground they seize, any unwilling people they capture, will be a constant drain on Russia, indeed the more the worse.  That is the hostile invaders’ burden and curse. 

After so many are killed and so much is destroyed, how long will Russians think that their government’s adventure was worth it?  What weights will Putin’s escapade be laying upon his people to carry? The longer it goes on, the worse it gets for all concerned.  From the perspective of the people of Russia and Ukraine, I do not see how this ends well.

About Wayne Abernathy
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am the husband of one wife, the father of 5 children, and grandfather of 16 (and counting). In my career I have served on the staff of the U.S. Senate for some 20 years, including as staff director of the Senate Banking Committee. For just over 2 years I was the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Institutions. Just recently, I retired from the American Bankers Association, where for 15 years I was an Executive Vice President, for financial institutions policy and regulatory affairs. I am most comfortable at home, where I like to read and write, and at the Temple, where I rejoice in helping to unite families.

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