Voting at the Point of a Gun

Imagine that your neighbor takes a gun, starts shooting at your house, and moves the fence between your gardens onto your land, eventually taking your children in the treehouse hostage. Then he points the gun at your children and tells them “You want to live with me now, don’t you?” and after one of them says yes, fearful for their lives, he declares that they all said yes and their wishes have to be respected and thus they, together with the piece of the garden he fenced off, are now properly his.

No analogy is perfect of course but this is roughly what Vladimir Putin has done with regard to Zaporozhnia, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson oblasts. There were no true referenda, there was just a publicity stunt theater with maybe some people saying “yes” on their own, some were (or felt to be, which is effectively the same) coerced and some said nothing but were recorded as saying “yes” anyway. The only surprising thing about the results is how predictably absurd they are.

I do not for a minute think that Putin or his toadies like Lavrov actually believe what they are saying. They do not believe that the referenda were fair and representative or that they are not waging a genocidal war of conquest against Ukraine but merely an intervention against Nazis. They just lie through their teeth and want to use force to make everyone else behave as if the lies were true. And that sums up the whole of Russian foreign policy over the last hundred years or so, and it only got worse under Putin.

I expect some of the local FtB tankies still think that “the West” and Ukraine should negotiate peace with Putin. For the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around that stance. Putin has lied so many times over the time of his reign with regard to Ukraine that he is on record saying mutually exclusive things (the same goes for Lavrov). Anything he says today, any promises he makes, any guarantees he gives, any oaths he swears, none of that can be believed. And how on earth is one supposed to negotiate in good faith with someone who gives them absolutely no reason to have any good faith whatsoever? How are we supposed to believe the promises he gives today when he broke literally every promise he gave in the past?

I do not like war. I am a pacifist at heart. I do not like to hurt living beings of any kind, especially not humans. But I am also a realist. I destroy weeds and kill pests in my garden. And I also know that I am capable of hurting others in self-defense. I know that it is not possible to negotiate with someone who does not respect any moral rules and laws except their own power. In the analogy that has started this article, it would be the police who would be tasked with restraining your violent neighbor. Without the existence of the police, it would be up to you to get your kids and garden back and teach him a lesson to not try and hurt you again, perhaps with the help of your other, sensible, neighbors.

Putin has put the whole world in danger and he will keep doing it until he is stopped. If we give him 15% of Ukraine today, he will demand more tomorrow, killing or deposing millions of Ukrainians in the process anyway. There are clear historical precedents for how these things go, WW2 being the most obvious one. Dictators of this type have never enough.

As much as I do not like war, giving Ukrainians the arms to defend themselves and push the invasion force back into Russia is the only way to stop their genocide. The only way that does not direct military intervention that is. Doing nothing is not a pacifist stance. Doing nothing is allowing the genocide to take place unopposed, thus effectively supporting it. If you do not oppose Putin, you support genocide.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    it would be up to you to get your kids and garden back and teach him a lesson kill him, his wife, his kids, and anyone who helped him, demolish his house and set the rubble on fire

    Fixed it for you.

  2. mordred says

    As I remeber it, one of Putin’s minimal demands for peace talks is a demilitarized Ukraine. One must be blind not to see how that would end!

  3. moarscienceplz says

    One other thing I think could be done is to kick Russia out of the UN Security Council. I don’t know the mechanism that would be needed to do it, but I think enough of the world is sufficiently appalled at Putin to make it possible.

  4. says

    @sonofrojblake, no, you did not fix it for me, you made it into an entirely different analogy. I support Ukraine pushing occupants out of Ukraine in a way that discourages future Kremlin leaders from invading again in foreseeable future. I do not support bombing Moscow and St. Petersburg into rubble.

    I do not believe in retribution and vengeance. They make for entertaining and engaging fictional story arches, but they are not a good basis for any real-life policy.

  5. jenorafeuer says

    Short of disbanding and re-forming the U.N. with new rules, I don’t think there is a way to kick Russia off the security council.

    The original five Permanent members of the security council are all there for a single, simple reason when the U.N. was formed post-WWII: they were all countries that needed to be on board to make the U.N. have any teeth at all (unlike the previous League of Nations), and all of them refused to be on board if there were any way the U.N. could be actively used against them. So all of them got a veto to make sure that the U.N. can’t directly interfere with their interests, because otherwise they wouldn’t have joined at all and a U.N. without any of them would have been dead on arrival as an even vaguely useful organization.

    Obviously Russia would veto any motion to kick it off the council. So short of disbanding the council entirely, I don’t think they can be kicked off. And disbanding the security council would leave the U.N. with even less power and influence than it has now, since the security council is the only part of it that can force any action stronger than fiercely worded but voluntary resolutions.

  6. Steve Morrison says

    I assume “deposing” was meant to be “deporting”? But yeah, good analogy for Putin’s phony referenda.

  7. Tethys says

    Nobody seems to think those elections were anything but a sham. It’s even more ridiculous that Putin is claiming territory in the East that is currently being wrested away from Russian occupation by Ukraines military.

    My best case scenario involves some Russians removing their murderous dictator, releasing Navalny from prison, and instituting some modern government and policies. I’m not so keen on the nuclear threats or sheer petty wastefulness of destroying pipelines.

  8. Gelaos says

    There is a famous story about Putin. As a small boy he was chasing a rat down the hallway. He chased the rat into a corner and, to his surprise, the rat lashed back and tried to bite him. Now Putin’s regime and he himself is cornered. Just like that rat, Putin is desperate and fighting for his own survival.
    Russian regime, represented by Putin, is thinking and behaving like an imperialistic power. They look at the world mainly through lens of power, conflict and force. Thefore, as Charly wrote, the only way to stop them is to push Russian army back to Russia. However, I’d say that Putin and Russian hardliners would rather see Ukraine, if not the entire world, burn in a nuclear armageddon rather than admit defeat.
    Also, Russian’s invasion of Ukraine is a pivotal point regarding international structures and relations, geopolitics, law and security -- arguably the biggest such point since dissolution of USSR. The world is becoming increasingly multi-polar and there will undoubtedly be other situations not unlike the current one. When Trump rose to power in 2016, it boosted and/or mobilized other anti-systemic/populistic tendencies around the world. In a similar manner, if we’d let Ukraine loose even a small and seemingly insignificant bit of territory, if we’d fall for Russia’s nuclear threats or if we’d grew tired of supporting Ukraine, then -- even if Russia would be by most accounts defeated -- it would be a Pyrrhic victory at best and other warmongers around the world would feel more emboldened (e.g. Chinese hardliners in respect to Tai-wan).

  9. says

    “I expect some of the local FtB tankies still think that “the West” and Ukraine should negotiate peace with Putin.”
    In an ideal world? Absolutely the West should negotiate peace with Putin.
    In this world, the RealWorld, a world in which Putin is a power-mad autocrat who lies like the Angry Cheeto—early and often—and flatly cannot be trusted to live up to his end of any deal which might be negotiated with him? Yeah, no.

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