Did Those 500 at Debaltseve Die in Vain?

According to the United States Mission to the United Nations’ web-site, the US Permanent Representative to the UN, Samantha Power, said on Friday, March 6, that in the Donbas “More than 5,800 people [have been – NP] killed – a casualty count that does not include the hundreds of bodies found once Russian-backed separatists finished their deadly siege of Debaltseve. An OCHA [the United Nations Secretariat’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – NP] report from the end of last month said that 500 bodies had been found in houses and basements at the end of the siege – 500 bodies. Homes and basements where people took shelter from the endless barrage of Russian-made mortars and rockets as they rained down on the city’s residents – residents who could not escape. Weeks into the siege, at the end of January, the self-declared leader of the Russian-backed separatists had announced, “Anybody who leaves…will be in the interlocking field of fire of our artillery. From today, the road is under fire.” And so those inside were left with a choice: risk your life by staying, or risk your life by leaving. Civilians were killed doing both, and again, 500 hundred bodies found in homes and basements where people took shelter.”

This was said on Friday, and by now this news is in the Ukrainian media. Yet, on Saturday night, there is no trace of any news in the Western media (although one would expect a massacre of this size confirmed by the UN to find its way into the media). Isn’t this characteristic of the West’s indifference to the war in Ukraine? Let’s put a face to the war, as an attempt to break that wall of indifference. A Ukrainian soldier Dmytro Lisovenko, pictured above, was killed in action at Debaltseve on February 12, 2015, on the day when the Minsk-2 peace accords were signed by Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia.

Last week, it became public that the US National Security Advisor Susan Rice is the one persuading President Obama not to supply lethal arms to Ukraine (it would hardly be surprising to find that Barak Obama wants to be persuaded in this case). Representatives of several Western governments, including the Canadian one, have effectively admitted that they are waiting for the US to take the decision on arming Ukraine. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has recently said that Russia’s exclusion from SWIFT is “an extreme option” and that “the truth is that it is a ‘double-edged sword’.”

Look Dmytro Lisovenko in the eye, Ms. Rice and Mr. Hammond. He is looking at you exactly the same way he is now looking at his parents, wife and two little children from the picture on the wall in their apartment in his hometown Sumy. He and those 500, so far nameless, Ukrainians died from the Russian artillery fire during the siege of the city, which preceded and followed the Minsk-2 accords. Did they die in vain and did their deaths not convince the West to take swift action against Russia?

Why arm Ukraine? The right question would be why don’t all the Western countries disarm? Let’s scrap most of our lethal weapons and only leave intact our anti-mortar radars, some rifles, binoculars, night vision goggles and bullet-proof vests (which is largely what Ukraine has, at least officially, gotten from the West in terms of military equipment by now). Sounds overstretched? Why? We need lethal weapons even less, we are not at war with Russia. Ukraine is. And if Ukraine does not need lethal weapons, why do we need them? By this logic, countries should arm themselves to the teeth in peaceful times and scrap their weapons as soon as they are attacked.

Ridiculous? No more so than President Obama’s position on Ukraine. That this position is pure appeasement of the aggressor, resembling exactly of what Britain and France had done before they themselves were attacked by Hitler, has been said so many times that it’s really uneasy to repeat it. But the gravity of the situation requires just that. We don’t know if Putin really has long-ranging plans to attack NATO countries, even the Baltic states or Poland. But he certainly wants to go deeper into Ukraine. For the West to close its eyes on the capture of Debaltseve, after so many “red lines” for Russia have been drawn, is the same as inviting Putin’s military elsewhere in Ukraine. How many people have to die of the Russian aggression in Ukraine for Ms. Rice to understand this simple thing?