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.