Henry Marsh: Ukraine – the frontier between western freedom and Russian slavery

Article by Henry Marsh, neurosurgeon and bestselling author for Ukrayinska Pravda:

I have been making medical visits to Ukraine for thirty years, and although I do not speak the language I probably have a deeper understanding of the country and its problems than most people in the West. Before training to be a doctor, I had studied twentieth century Russian history at Oxford University.

In the past I would come back from my medical trips to Kyiv and Lviv and tell people “Ukraine is a really important country – the frontier between western freedom and Russian slavery”. I was usually met by blank expressions – most people thought that Ukraine was simply a small and unimportant part of Russia.

All that, of course, has now changed. All the world knows about Ukraine – it has become the most important country on the planet – if you believe in freedom and decency, that is. The ghastly truth about Putin, his soldiers and his many supporters, has become very clear. It is a terrible thought that we might have to live in a world in which Putin has not been defeated. Anything less than Ukrainian victory means the triumph of lies, mass murder, rape, forced deportations and looting – in short, of evil.

It is very hard to know how much further the West will go in supporting Ukraine – for instance,  whether it will send heavy artillery and anti-ship missiles. I am afraid you must remember how many people in America still believe in Trump and in France in Marie LePen. And there is Orban in Hungary. The Tory party in the UK – the political party of the government – received millions of dollars over the years from Russian oligarchs, even though it is now sending weapons to Ukraine.

The UK government has been very slow to sanction the Russian oligarchs and has not seized their billions of dollars’ worth of houses and palaces in the UK. There is plenty of evidence that Putin gave financial support to the Brexit campaign, just as he did his best to influence the Presidential elections in the US and lent money to Marie le Pen. Many politicians in the West are still entangled with the Russians kleptocrats, just as their boss intended.

Western governments are genuine democracies, and unlike Putin with his false democracy, they depend for their power on their electorates. Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, world food and energy prices were rising steeply. The war in Ukraine is going to push up prices even further, especially if Russian gas and energy imports were blocked. Ultimately, the extent of Western support for Ukraine will depend on economics, on the price of food and central heating and air conditioning. The comfort of the West will be paid for in Ujrainian blood.

NATO will not become directly involved. I doubt if NATO believes Putin’s veiled threats about nuclear weapons – the man is perfectly rational, just evil and vile – but the fear is that war between NATO and Russia could easily spin out of control and become nuclear. So there is no limit as to how  many people Putin will have murdered or raped, and his forces may well be using chemical weapons already. Putin knows this, which is why nothing other than military defeat in Donbas will stop him.

Everybody I know in England, and all the media, are horrified by what is going on in Ukraine. It is closer than Chechnya, or Syria or Yemen, but ultimately not profoundly different from them. I fear that they do not  understand how Putin and Russian is a profound threat to all the world, and not just to Ukraine. In the final analysis they will be  more concerned about the  short-term cost of living rather than the long-term  cost of freedom.

Ukraine is paying the price of everybody’s freedom and it has already been a terrible price and will get worse.

Western governments have their hands tied behind their backs by the fear of nuclear war and the fear of the effect on their electorates of rising prices.

The only hope is that the limited support the West is giving Ukraine combined with the extraordinary bravery and skill of the Ukrainian army will defeat Putin. 

We have a moral duty to be optimistic. If we lose hope, we will give in, and then evil will certainly triumph.

READ MORE: Putin decorates Russian Brigade involved in atrocities in Bucha

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