Obviously our thoughts and prayers for the citizens of the Ukraine are not working. What is Plan B? There has been endless talk of economic sanctions, but Vladimir the Terrible saw these coming when he invaded the Crimea eight years ago.  He has had eight years to make Russia, or at least the oligarchs who have been raping the country for thirty years, effectively sanction-proof.  The average Russian citizen may have seen his or her life savings evaporate over the past week, but the champagne-swilling, money-laundering thugs at the top of the Russian food chain are still ordering all the caviar they can eat while they relax on their Mediterranean yachts. They may have cheered on the tank commanders rolling their killing machines across the Russian and Belarus borders into the Ukraine, but they and their children are well-protected from the hardships of the Ukrainian winter. 

Vladimir has warned those trouble-making democracies to the west that he just might launch a few nuclear weapons if they keep annoying him. This hardly seems necessary, since the nations condemning his invasion of the Ukraine have all promised that they will not get in his way as his troops, artillery, cruise missiles, and tanks level one Ukrainian city after another. For those unfamiliar with the Russian formula for “peace-keeping” one need only take a tour of the city of Aleppo in Syria. That city was bombed back to the Stone Age by a Russian military whose only mission was to help out a friendly dictator. The plans for the Ukraine are much more ambitious.  Vladimir actually wants to annex the entire country as part of his plan to move the world back to 1946 when the Soviet Empire really struck terror in the hearts of the western democracies.  

Diplomats and politicians from all over the world have quite literally turned their backs on their Russian counterparts. This encouraging show of solidarity has not slowed the armored personnel carriers moving into the Ukraine across three of its borders. Germany has vowed to send supplies to the beleaguered Ukrainian military, but how that can be accomplished now with so much Russian armor on the ground is a mystery. Italy wants to increase economic sanctions on Russia but insists that luxury exports from Italy, such as high-end leather handbags, be exempted from the new sanctions. Switzerland, a country whose army still uses bicycles as its primary mode of transportation, has thrown its support behind the Ukraine and has issued harshly worded rebukes addressed to Mr. Putin. The President of France had several frank and productive talks with the mendacious Russian President. President Biden ran up hefty phone bills to get assurances from Vlad the Invader that Ukrainians were just being paranoid.

The political landscape is disturbingly similar to 1938.  Back then the stream of lies were spoken in German with an Austrian accent. Now we get to hear the same old lies spoken in Russian. Neville Chamberlain got “peace in our time” for a few months after Germany digested Czechoslovakia.  Pacification of an irritable dictator has taken a slightly different form in the Twenty-first Century, but the objective is still the same: Yell across the border but do not throw any stones at those people raping your good friends. Our allies have set up dedicated communication lines to make sure NATO troops do not inadvertently come into contact with Russian troops. The U.S. and NATO do not want to provoke World War III by getting too confrontational with Vlad. The allies talk about supporting the doomed Ukrainians, but there have been no jets harassing the line of tanks, trucks, and mechanized weapons stretching neatly forty miles from Kyiv to the Belarus border. There have been no humanitarian supplies arriving by air or sea or overland to help the Ukrainian people survive the bombardment of their cities. There has been a lot of shouting into the wind. The Russian leadership seems unfazed. What is Plan C?

The Ukraine has demonstrated a resolve and defiance rarely seen in conflicts with Russia or, previously, the Soviet Union. Obviously, virtually every American wants Russia to quit the Ukraine immediately, but as the Ukrainian and Russian death tolls mount, it is likely that this will be a protracted war with Russia ending up the ruler of a wasteland. The real mystery is how long will Putin let his multibillion dollar war machine rest before he sends it on another “pacification” mission.  How long will NATO nations telegraph reassuring messages to the evil men governing Russia in the hope the oligarchs will stay behind the refurbished Iron Curtain that they are constructing? How long before Vlad announces that Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Norway or Poland is threatening Russia? How long before we realize that the Ukraine was worth saving?

Dr. Lechtenberg is an Easton resident who graduated from Tufts University and Tufts Medical School in Massachusetts and subsequently trained at The Mount Sinai Hospital and Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan.  He worked as a neurologist at several New York Hospitals, including Kings County and The Long Island College Hospital, while maintaining a private practice, teaching at SUNY Downstate Medical School, and publishing 15 books on a variety of medical topics. He worked in drug development in the USA, as well as in England, Germany, and France.

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