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We Must Challenge Putin Beyond Ukraine

“If you can’t solve a problem, enlarge it.” – Dwight Eisenhower

Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin is calling for outside reinforcements in an attempt to subjugate Ukraine. While forces from Belarus don’t seem particularly eager [1] to join in, Lukashenko has put the country he has imprisoned in the service of the Kremlin. Meanwhile, Bashar Assad is sending some of his minions [2] northward. Odds are the latter will add far more zeal for murder than actual battlefield impact, while the reverse might be true for Belarus.

More importantly, though, is the opportunity this gives NATO to expand Putin’s problems. In supporting pro-democracy insurgents in these satellite regimes of Russia, we can add pressure on Putin and give hope to his victims.

At present, Putin has his hands full with Ukraine; it’s why he’s looking outside the country for reinforcements in the first place. NATO’s attempts to support the Ukrainians must be balanced by the need to avoid an escalation into a nuclear conflict. Adjustments need to be made on the fly – even one of my ideas for a limited no-fly zone [3] would no longer be in the cards now. That said, America and her allies can help Ukraine by forcing Putin to shift has already strained resources to defending his puppet “allies.”

We’ll find plenty of willing compatriots in these two countries. Lukashenko relied on Russian support [4] to stay in power despite losing an election in 2020. Syria’s regime [5] has relied on Russian air power to pulverize a popular rebellion, save for the piece of it where our military is present. So not only will we be making things harder for Putin, but we can also make things better for the people imprisoned by Lukashenko and Assad if we help their victims take their countries back.

If we’re stuck with replaying the Cold War (and, in effect, we are), then it would be best to remember the words of the American president [6] most effective in fighting it.

We must stand by all our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives — on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua — to defy Soviet supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth…Support for freedom fighters is self-defense

That’s just as true in 2021 as it was in 1985.