Why the crisis in Ukraine matters to us


We must not underestimate the danger of the Russian buildup of some 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. While Russian President Vladimir Putin claims he does not want to initiate a war to protect his nation’s borders, he has warned the West that he means business.

This matters to us thousands of miles away because the consequences may directly affect our lives. First, there are the unknown costs in deaths and property destruction resulting in a major war in that part of the world. With American and European guarantees of Ukraine’s integrity, what may the outcome entail? While no one knows for certain, it may be dire for international peace and stability.

Second, we have seen how spending vastly increased in the last half of 2021. The result is inflation not seen in 40 years. It may yet worsen if there is military action as a result of the Russia-Ukraine standoff.

And third, the spike in the cost of natural gas and energy generally could be immense if war were to break out. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Ukrainian officials say an invasion would disrupt pipelines that carry Russian gas through their territory to Eastern and Western Europe.”

So, how has this come to such a dangerous point, even as American and Russian diplomats met in Geneva and Brussels to resolve the problem?

Once the Cold War began in the 1950s, the U.S. and the then Soviet Union began to amass great numbers of nuclear weapons in an arms race. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’ strategy at the time to counter Soviet aggression has remained in place. 

Called “containment,” the policy was designed to “contain” the Soviet Union by creating several military alliances. The idea was first outlined by the American diplomat George F. Kennan, who in 1947 in an anonymous article in Foreign Affairs noted, “It is clear that the mean element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.”

Kennan did not mean military containment or threats to stop Soviet aggression. As a diplomat, he meant that diplomacy would and could work to forestall Russian advances. We must, he said, “remain at all times cool and collected” so our “Russian policy should be put forward in such a manner as to leave the way open for a compliance not too detrimental to Russian prestige.”

In other words, always give them a way to save face through diplomatic means.

Dulles saw it differently. He set out to use military alliances to contain the Soviet Union. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, which still exists today, was already in place by 1949. ANZUS (Australia and New Zealand) followed in 1951, and then SEATO (Southeast Asia) in 1954. At its inception, NATO consisted of just 12 countries to forestall Soviet advances into Western Europe. Today, it numbers 30 member states.

As recently as 2008, NATO leaders indicated they would welcome Ukraine as a member. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has made clear his country’s interest in joining to protect against Russian aggression. In 2018, Ukraine officially became “an aspiring member” of NATO.

No Western diplomat underestimates the threat, because Russia has already demonstrated its military might: In 2014, a Russian-inspired insurgency broke out in Eastern Ukraine, and is ongoing. And then, Russia annexed Ukrainian Crimea.

Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at Brown University and former New York Times foreign correspondent, observed in the Boston Globe on Jan. 6 that “countries don’t like having hostile forces near their borders. That’s one reason the United States has built rings of bases around China, Russia, and Iran … Our NATO air base in Latvia is 500 miles from Moscow, and in Estonia, the NATO ground force, which is equipped with more than 100 tanks and combat vehicles, is based 70 miles from the Russian border.”

Putin has repeatedly said that the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” And he wants to rebuild the old Soviet Empire (or its predecessor, the tsarist Russian Empire). That was one reason he kept troops for so long in Chechnya to put down an insurgency, fearing it would secede from Russia. And why he oversaw the deployment of Russian troops into Georgia in the South Caucasus in 2014. Georgia was then, as now, an independent country.

Ukraine may be next. Talks between the Russians and Americans in Geneva to seek a way out, at this writing, do not look promising. Putin has unrelentingly demanded that NATO renounce all intentions of including Ukraine within its ranks. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov noted that Ukraine must “never, never, ever” join NATO, while the American Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman responded that the U.S. has always supported NATO’s “open-door policy.”

Ryabkov said if NATO does not give Russia its guarantee to exclude Ukraine, the “security of the whole European continent” will be at risk.

The problem is that no one knows for certain Putin’s intentions, including his closest advisors. The U.S. and Russia must act to overcome the diplomatic stalemate, one that will guarantee Ukrainian integrity and Russian security interests. If this happens, the three major threats to us in the West, outlined above, may well moderate, resulting in a more stable relationship between the U.S. and Russia.


Jack Fruchtman, who lives in Aquinnah, many years ago studied Soviet content analysis at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies in Washington, D.C.


  1. Meanwhile here in the US, we have an entire cable “news” outlet (Fox) promoting Russian propaganda and endorsing dictators around the globe. Putin is grinning from ear to ear at how easy it’s been to divide our country from within.

  2. Mr Fruchtman is absolutely correct in everything he says here. As a Soviet refugee and also having been to Russia several times in the last 20 years, we should be concerned and Ukraine having genocide visited upon them under Stalin has a right to be in NATO.

  3. It is sad to see the MV Times providing editorial space for the frenzied incitement of war against Russia.

    A quick rereading of recent 20th century and earlier Russian history provides useful perspective on Russia’s legitimate security concerns—primarily, the removal of NATO forces and weaponry from its doorstep(s). Kind of like the USA and Cuba. Think of it as securing its southern border. Shrieking about Russia’s placing troops within its own territory while the USA, the UK, and others deploy weaponry thousands of miles from their own shores to within striking distance of Moscow suggests severe cognitive dissonance, at the very least.

    For Russia, taking over the chaotic Ukraine, run by a handful of oligarchs, with its considerable complement of anti-Semitic Neonazis—followers of Stepan Bandera—and the lowest living standard in Europe would be masochistic. Russia is not interested in paying to maintain or build up a country that they did not break.

    However, Russia will not allow another bloodbath of ethnic Russians in southeastern Ukraine (where most of them live).

    • Mr. Fruchtman is an officer of the Vineyard Conservation Society. His bellicose stance does not align with basic environmental awareness. Wars and weaponry are the most destructive activities of Earth’s environment, bar none.

      David Petraeus stated in 2011, “Energy is the lifeblood of our warfighting capacities.” https://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-war-fighter-

      The US Department of Defense is the largest user of petroleum and thus the single largest producer of greenhouse gases on Earth. Efforts to reduce carbon footprints via “consumer choices” are futile until and unless humanity succeeds in reining in military adventurism and truly stupid, reckless sabre rattling at and provocation of the world’s other great powers.

      Quite apart from the environmental destruction and waste of war making, we could all end up nuked. That is the only reason the crisis in Ukraine “matters to us.” Let’s not go there.

      A true environmentalist must, by simple logic, be a peace-nik, not a war-nik.

    • Katherine — Just a few points if you think the Russians were the victims of genocide at the hands of Ukrainians. In case you aren’t familiar with it , Stalin deliberately starved almost 4 million Ukrainians to death in an event that is known as the known as the Holodomor
      After that, in typical double speak, the Soviet’s propaganda machine has blamed others for genocide against them.
      I would like to know more about your assertion that there was a “blood bath” in southeastern Ukraine. When did that happen ?
      I know there was one in Crimea, when the Russians crossed the border and eventually annexed it. They even shot down a civilian aircraft.
      And you speak of oil. Ukraine has plenty of it.
      While you are correct about the U.S military being the worlds largest consumer of oil , it also funds the Russian army, which uses quite a bit of it itself.
      After berating Mr. Fruchtman, the government of Ukraine and a vague reference to “saber rattling”, I wonder who you think is rattling the sabers ? Do you think Mr. Putin is not ?
      One hundred thousand heavily armed and supplied troops ready to roll into a sovereign country if it’s de facto dicktater leader does not get his way seems like it could be construed as saber rattling. Especially since he already invaded that country less than 10 years ago.

      And just for the record, in comparison to the world, Ukraine ranks 55th in standard of living– Russia, which spans both Europe and Asia, with 77 % of the population residing on the European side ,is rated at 66th https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/standard-of-living-by-country

  4. Ms. Scott you are correct in your comments on NATO eastward expansion over former Soviet states, and you are correct that ethnic Russians have been in the past targeted and killed. However Putin is a thug, NATO has no designs on occupying Ukraine, and the US has never had hegemony as its desire like the Soviets did in the 60’s. Arming the Cubans was provocative, Ukraine in NATO is a political issue and not an occupation issue. People argue that Iran is sovereign and has a right to nuclear just as we do but our intent is not to do damage but Iran has evil intent. The moral equivalency of Cuba and NATO is different. Russia defacto controls Belarus and would like to take over Latvia and Estonia and the rest of former Soviet States. Ukraine is not a threat to Russia. Putin should focus on improving Russia’s economy which is dismal.

    • These comments are muddled in the extreme.
      We need to cut to the chase when it comes to Ukraine, not go round and round with irrelevancies, unexamined premises, non sequitors, and unsupported assertions.
      Whose interests are served by fomenting more troubles in Ukraine?
      Certainly not Russia’s.
      Cui bono?

  5. The US arming Ukraine is as provocative as Russia arming Cuba, Canada or Mexico.
    The US wants more hegemony, we tried it in Vietnam, we failed.
    Should we establish hegemony over Ukraine, Hunter has some good contacts.
    NATO exists to to provide mutual security to to all of Europe, except Russia.
    Ukraine is not a threat to Russia, Ukraine is a steeping stone to all of Eastern Europe, for Russia.
    They way to improve Russia’s economy is to reestablish the Soviet Union.
    Putin will take your suggestion to the trash.
    As to Iran.
    The US intended to damage Iran when the CIA installed the Shah on the Peacock Throne.
    We were very successful.
    The US would never ever use nuclear weapons, first……
    No matter how many times Trumpers call for turning Iran into glass.
    Why does Pakistan have the nuclear weapons?
    Because we are too weak to take them away?
    The same reason that we do not take them away from Kim?

  6. Mr Hess, weapons for defense is different than weapons for offense.
    The US went to Vietnam not to occupy but to stave off Communism.
    Mossadegh was the Iranian version of Hugo Chavez. We were right to oust him.
    We don’t take nuclear weapons from Pakistan for the same reason we don’t take them from other allies.
    Soviet arms in Cuba was an act of provocation. NATO wanting sovereignty for Ukraine is not.
    As a Russian speaking soviet refugee and a resident of Iran for two years and fluent in Farsi, I know something about this.

    • It is not smart to use past events and unresolved emotions regarding past events to justify present provocations.
      Citing supposed Soviet aims in the 1960s—now sixty years in the past—as justifications for provoking today’s Russian Federation sounds particularly dense. The revanchist thinking is not in today’s Russia.

      I reckon MV Times readers are familiar with the notion of ideation–imagining things, and then acting on one’s own imaginings. Such ideation generally indicates wishes. Why does the USA wish to start a war in Ukraine? The short answer seems to be to distract from growing domestic problems, and to lure Russian into taking action that will then serve as a pretext for more draconian sanctions. In the sanctions game the USA is also playing with fire.
      I wonder whether people who support such “policies”–if they even earn that moniker—are eager to find out who has won the arms race.
      Assertions of Russian revanchism—that the RF wants to reestablish the Soviet Union, betoken limited understanding. After the breakup of the USSR, the Russians in the core republics realized how costly it had been for them to maintain the various republics fringing the USSR. Much as some American states financially prop up others, when one analyzes the flow of $$$. Neither does the RF have any interest in throwing good rubles after bad to fix up Ukraine. And the effort would be totally pointless, as Ukraine is extremely corrupt on all levels. The Russians know this—also, that some American politicians are part of the corruption schemes.

      Russia’s concerns with events next to its borders are security concerns. What is the challenge with grasping this very simple point? Ever heard of the Monroe Doctrine? The Cuban Missile Crisis?
      The USA is used to doing what it wants, wherever it wants, dishing out punishment but not getting punished, and creating bogeymen to justify other agendas. It is immaterial whether someone sitting on MV thinks Putin is a “thug.” More relevant is that most of those determining policy in DC are chicken-hawks. They do not comprehend what war on their own territory means. Every Russian understands this. American and UK meddling is endangering Germany, its people and its economy. Which is why Germany is lying very low while the USA and UK recklessly send arms, and even troops, into Ukraine. Sadly, the last thing most Ukrainians want or need is more fighting on their territory.

      Meanwhile, the $$$ continue to flow to the MIC.
      And planet Earth continues to be trashed and polluted.

      • Katherine — I can agree with you that sending arms to Ukraine can be viewed as a threat to Russia. But if we look back at some recent history, the Russians invaded and annexed Crimea. The west did not come to their defense, nor did the Russians suffer any real consequence for that invasion.
        Do you really think that after Putin ordered over 100,000 fully equipped troops to the border with Ukraine, that if western countries object, they are the aggressors ?
        And let us not forget what the issue is here. Putin wants an unconditional guarantee that a sovereign nation will never be able to join a military alliance of their choosing to protect against a know aggressor on their border.
        You are even familiar with the notion of ideation–imagining.
        I don’t often agree with Andy, but Putin certainly is a thug.

  7. Ms. Scott, Putin is a product of the Soviet Union and the KGB. His aims are the same as those of the Soviet Union in the 60’s. He bemoaned the loss of the former Republic handed to him by Gorbachev. He also practices terror, perhaps not as much as his predecessors but terror nevertheless. Putin controls Belorussia and he has designs on Ukraine due to its vast Russian population. Finally the US will not start a war with the Ukraine and all of this is political theatre designed by Putin to put maximum pressure on NATO to give him something. Yes Putin has security concerns but they are irrational. No one wants to invade Russia. BTW Germany has no-one t blame but itself for shutting down Nuclear and being held hostage to a Russian pipeline.

    • You are right, Mr. Engelmann, that Germany drank some green Kool-Aid when it shut down its nuclear power plants. The energy crisis in Germany is not the whole story in Germany’s avoidance of the arming-the-Ukraine bandwagon, but it is a great example of how the USA is ignoring political and economic realities of its allies in order to gin up a very dangerous conflict in Russia’s front yard in Ukraine.

      Putin’s security concerns are not “irrational”?
      Apparently you do not understand basic self-defense.
      Russia has been repeatedly invaded by Western powers.
      The USA has not been invaded by anyone (except maybe Santa Anna).

      Re that perennial favorite, Stalin: The citizens of the USSR, and the Soviet Union itself, were burdened with the reality of surviving the Stalinist regime.
      Now people like you, incredibly, blame the survivors, the victims, for Stalin and equate them with Stalin!

      Re “Putin is a product of the Soviet Union and the KGB. His aims are the same as those of the Soviet Union in the 60’s.”
      The truth: Western leaders *thought* Putin would turn out be a Soviet-style apparatchik. I remember it well. A “nobody.” “Gray bureaucrat.” “Younger Andropov.”
      Darn! Didn’t turn out that way. Putin turned out to be a Russian patriot who had what it took to put together and lead a team to steer Russia out of the social and economic abyss Western economic advisors left it in in the 1990s.
      BTW, President George H W Bush was the former head of the CIA, but I don’t recall anyone calling this ex-CIA-man a spook and a thug when he became President Bush.
      Recall the WMD furor regarding Iraq? Recall the hysterical headlines on the front page of the News York Times? Recall Saddam Hussein’s repeated protestations that he wasn’t developing any WMD? Recall that the American/Nato invasion took place anyhow? Recall that no WMD were found? Recall that the USA just wanted regime change in Iraq? Recall how that turned out? Recall how the Afghanistan “cakewalk” turned out? Are you willing to send your son to fight in Ukraine?

      Since you speak Russian, why not catch up on some recent podcasts and pressers from Andrei Martyanov, Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister Maria Sakharova, other Russian commentators, and Putin himself, to dispel your nightmares of Russia threatening an “invasion” of Ukraine. Far more likely than a Russian “invasion” is a false flag of some kind in the Donbass carried out by Ukrainian troops, or even mercenaries, masterminded by their American and British “advisors.”

  8. What non-sense the Russians are bullies! I had family members who left the Ukraine under Russian occupancy. Things were horrible under Soviet rule. But I must say I am not in agreement with the U.S. being every ones policemen.

  9. Ms.Scott where to start. Putin “”pulled Russia out of an economic and social mess””. You are kidding right? He has done nothing for Russia. It is a mess and will remain so. People get poisoned or disappear. Then you go one with non sequitors like WMD and Saddam and Afghanistan. Nowhere have I blamed the survivors of Stalin. You just fabricated that. Bush was not a thug. Putin is and the comparison is stunning in its naïveté. If you want to idolize Putin go ahead. There are plenty of things wrong with the US but jumping to moral equivalency is silly.

  10. Do you know who else stands up for Putin and ignores he’s a murderous thug? Tucker Carlson. If you don’t know whose side to support, stay away from the side that chops up journalists. If authoritarian liars like Trump and Carlson are for him, it’s a safe bet he’s bad for democracy and the regard for life.

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