A Message From The Chairman of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP
Over the last three weeks, the entire civilized world has been horrified and outraged by Russia’s brutal, unprovoked attack on the Ukrainian people. At the same time, we have been inspired by the heroic efforts of President Zelenskyy, his armed forces, and ordinary Ukrainian citizens to defend their nation and their freedoms against overwhelming odds.
We should also be angry, and ashamed, of the role Western democracies, including our own, have played in permitting and facilitating the carnage now underway. Having learned nothing from the appeasement of Hitler, for two decades, in both Republican and Democrat Administrations, we have accepted, and by accepting encouraged, Russia’s armed aggression.
Three presidents ago, when Russia invaded and seized a portion of Georgia, we did nothing that mattered. Two presidents ago, when Russia invaded and seized Crimea, we again did nothing that mattered. During the last Administration when Russia moved troops and equipment into Eastern Ukraine and effectively seized Ukrainian provinces we again did nothing that mattered -- and even praised Putin’s supposed “strength” and cleverness. And for two decades, including as recently as a month ago on the eve of Russia’s invasion, we have first implicitly, and then explicitly, assured Russia that if it did invade we would not intervene militarily.
Russia is a C+ economy with a B+ military. It would be no match for the United States and Europe militarily or economically. It has even been stalled for weeks by the vastly under armed and outnumbered Ukrainian resistance. Putin would never undertake his aggression were he not confident we would stay on the sidelines. Implicitly and explicitly we gave him that confidence. Strengthened and emboldened by our actions and inactions, and again facing a much smaller neighbor with a much, much less advanced military, Russia had no reason to believe there would be any obstacle to another step in Putin’s mad dream of reimagining the Russian Empire.
The justification, of course, for not now confronting Putin militarily is that Russia is a nuclear power and Putin’s thinly veiled threat to use nuclear weapons if anyone comes to the aid of Ukraine. That justification is not without force. One may question whether Putin is truly mad enough to start a nuclear exchange that would inevitably leave his beloved Russia in ashes, and whether if he is his military is mad enough to follow him. But the risk is not zero. And any risk of nuclear war is terrible to contemplate.
The consequences of yielding to nuclear blackmail are also grave. For one thing, it has no clear limits. Would we risk nuclear war over Lativa, or Finland, or even Poland or Hungary? In the hopes of forestalling further aggression, we now say that we will fulfill our obligations under NATO Article 5 and defend all NATO nations. But, while no one wants to remember it today to encourage Ukraine to give up its own nuclear arsenal (the third largest in the world at the time) four Presidents ago we promised to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Moreover, the long-term consequences for nuclear proliferation of our inaction are significant. No country is likely ever again to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees -- and every nation without nuclear weapons has an added incentive to obtain them. No country with nuclear weapons has ever been invaded, and it is now clear how vulnerable nations without nuclear weapons are. Whether the lives and freedom of 44 million Ukrainians, and the longterm consequences of surrendering to nuclear blackmail, are worth the risk of sparking nuclear war is a hard question without a good answer.
What should not be a hard decision is to do everything we can short of direct military intervention to oppose and weaken Putin’s war machine. Our sanctions, initially weak, have been increasingly strengthened -- and can be strengthened further. Such sanctions, of course, come with a cost. Our own economy is already feeling the effects, and those effects will only increase. But even if we shrink from the risks of military conflict, we should at least be able to endure $6 a gallon gas until we can include our own energy production.
Our Government also needs to do more to arm and supply Ukrainian freedom fighters and those that support them. As in the dark days of 1939 and 1940 when we refused to join the fight against Germany and Japan until it was almost too late, we can at least supply those who are fighting. There is frustratingly little that we as individuals can do other than light our buildings blue and gold and lobby our Government.
One thing we can do is contribute to the organizations that are trying to provide humanitarian assistance to brutalized Ukrainian civilians at home and beleaguered Ukrainian refugees abroad. Over the next 60 days, the Firm will match contributions made to approved non-profit organizations aiding the Ukrainian people up to $2,000 per employee. It seems, and it is a pathetically inadequate response. But it is something.
And we can vow never to forget; to stay the course when time passes and Russia appears to have won the war on the ground; and to make the world too small a place for Putin and his enablers, collaborators, and beneficiaries to hide their wealth, and, in the end, themselves.