The West Chooses Shame Over War

Putin is desperately seeking peace on his own terms. Under the threat
of an "accidental" explosion at Zaporizhzhia NPP and radioactive contamination
of half of Europe, the West will incline Ukraine to Putin’s “peace”.

R. Grossi, IAEA Director General, shows a map of ZNPP. Image from IAEA Imagebank, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I wrote at the end of July that Russian troops are stuck in Ukraine. Not a lot has changed since then in the war in terms of positions of the sides. Putin cannot fully capture Donetsk and Luhansk regions (although there seems to be little left), cannot develop an offensive in southern Ukraine, and even expects a Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kherson, so Russian military command in occupied Kherson moved from the right bank to the left bank of the Dnipro River.

However, something very important happened in the last two weeks. The Ukrainians launched two major strikes in Crimea - one was at the military airfield near the town of Saki on August 14 and the explosion occurred at military warehouse in northern Crimea 2 days later, that forced the evacuation of more than 3,000 people … Russian tourists began to leave Crimea in a hurry and that was a painful blow to Putin's ego.

Why is Crimea so important? Crimea is a sacred place for Putin, Russians and Ukrainians. For the Crimeans it is the most sacred place also, but they are not asked though. Russia's real war against Ukraine began in Crimea in 2014, and it will end there. The Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson will do great political harm to Putin's "genius tactician," but propagandists will invent sort of another "goodwill gesture," "temporary alignment of the front line," etc. The loss of Crimea (or even the threat to Crimea from a "non-existent state," as the Russians call Ukraine) destroys whole Putin's longstanding informational construct. It is the issue of Crimea that is able to trigger a split in the muddled brains of the average Russian, the collapse of Russia, and Putin's ultimate elimination from power. The clouds are gathering over Putin’s head and he realizes that.

However, Putin is indeed a good tactician, though a bad strategist. Let me explain the difference: a good tactician gets out of the trap he has fallen into, while a good strategist does not get into it. Despite his large superiority in soldiers and ammunition, Putin can no longer beat the Ukrainians with conventional arms, and Western aid to Ukraine is (so far) slow, but growing. However, Putin still has special military tools and there is no doubt that he will use them. I am talking about nuclear weapons.

As early as February 28, 2022 Putin has put Russia's nuclear forces on “special alert” and I thought that the USA and GB gave Putin a stern warning about the consequences somewhere in March 2022. They must have told him via some private channels that if he decided to launch a tactical nuclear strike against Ukraine, he would immediately receive a nuclear strike back from the collective West without any democratic discussions. Mr. Putin took this information then. I could not find any evidence of this, but most likely that was the case, otherwise Putin would have already used nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Putin understands just the language of strength, and the only person who shows this ability time after time is Turkish President R. Erdoğan, while managing to remain Mr. Putin's best and almost the only "friend”.


Well, in March 2022 Putin has been warned, the world (again) was saved for a while... The West breathed a sigh of relief and continued to watch the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation from the sidelines, slowly adding the required weapons to Ukraine which would not allow ”the crisis to escalate beyond Ukraine's borders”, as then-British Prime Minister B. Johnson said on April 26, 2022.

So for now there will be no direct nuclear strike on the territory of Ukraine (not to mention NATO countries). However, a hybrid nuclear strike against Europe, a Putin's favorite format, is very probable.

Mr. Putin can blow up the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (which is now under the control of his troops) and blame it on Ukraine. Almost everything is ready for that - the Zaporizhzhia NPP has been turned into an ammunition depot by the Russians and they now are bombarding Ukrainians from there without a fear of response. An explosion at the plant will cause a man-made disaster bigger than the 1986 Chernobyl event. A radioactive cloud will cover half of Europe, and the Russians have nothing to do with all that. This is absolutely Mr. Putin's style and tailor-made plan for the West. The West is bound to initiate an investigation procedure, i.e. there will be no immediate nuclear response (as it should be in the case of a direct tactical nuclear strike on Ukraine), and then there will be too late to do anything.

Mr. Putin is really taking a risk here, but not too much. He is forcing the West to take a big risk. It's okay with him that in the event of a possible explosion a couple of Russian border regions would suffer and a couple of hundred of Russian soldiers, officers, and maintenance personnel at ZNPP would die. It is much more likely that the West will agree to Putin's terms under the threat. Europe will very much want peace on any terms. Subsequently, maybe later they will even give to somebody (Mr. Putin? Mr. Erdoğan?) the Nobel Peace Prize for handling the issue...

Here it is, Mr. Putin's win in the current lose-lose situation for him.

Mr. Putin even did a little preparatory work: Russia initiated a special UN Security Council meeting on August 11th. The Russians are allegedly guarding the ZNPP from Ukronazis, which are shelling at it. The fact that Russians seized the ZNPP on Ukrainian territory does not bother them. The Russian Federation wanted Director General of IAEA R. Grossi to speak at the meeting. Mr. Grossi, of course, was very concerned about the situation at ZNPP, and surely was ready to come personally as a member of the commission to the plant... Right after the Ukrainians guarantee the safety... And if the Russians allow... And if the UN also gives its representative... If the ZNPP does not blow up before the arrival...

Democracy is about talking, not acting. That’s why it cannot win a war with equal authoritarian opponent.

It is impossible to unequivocally blame Mr. Putin for the explosion at the ZNPP. Well, it’s a war, everything can happen, someone's shell hit the wrong place... Putin can be blamed for the invasion of Ukraine and creating the conditions for the explosion at nuclear plant, but this should have been already done. And now all the media are saying that “the parties blame each other for the shelling of the ZNPP". 43 countries of the world (including the EU and the USA) recently have issued a joint statement, saying that “deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the nuclear facility is unacceptable and disregards the safety, security, and safeguards principles that all members of the IAEA have committed to respect.” Ok, so what?

Again, just words. As usual, the West cannot respond with action, and Mr. Putin is not bothered much by words. He is always a step or two ahead of the West, because he acts, while the West discusses these actions, and when (and if) a decision is issued, it’s already outdated, because Mr. Putin took the next step which had to be discussed, too, in order to develop a "unified position" and “proper response”. Thus there is no time to act, just a bunch of responses. Actually, the explosion of the ZNPP is very real and this is Mr. Putin's very strong next move to the desired peace. And the West is well aware that Putin will easily go for it. The West also understands that the radioactive cloud is capable of spreading this man-made disaster far beyond the site of the explosion - into Europe and across the Black Sea. Many countries will suffer, and first and foremost (apart from Ukraine and Russia) Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, and maybe, Turkey.

Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are members of NATO, so NATO can consider the threat to blow up the ZNPP as a threat to the member countries of the bloc and finally begin to act. However, this is only possible if there is a desire, and NATO has no such desire at all. From the very beginning, NATO's position is the bloc will not under any circumstances send troops to Ukraine. Regarding a possible explosion at ZNPP, NATO suggests to send there UN inspectors as soon as possible. I want to remind you, that NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance with a budget of 2.5 billion euro in 2022, and not a

A nice cartoon about Ferdinand the Bull was released in 2017. Ferdinand had refused to fight since his childhood, even though everyone told him that bulls were there for bullfighting. He grew up, became huge and powerful animal, but still remained a peacemaker. In the finale of the film, he was forced to participate in corrida. He stood alone against the toreador and instead of attacking ... he sat down in the arena.

A toreador usually kills the bull with a horizontal sword stab into the neck, but that requires the bull to lower his head and attack. But Ferdinand was sitting and it was impossible to kill him with a traditional strike. There was a pause in the stands, the children (and then the adult spectators) began to shout "Life! Life!", and sure enough, the toreador was defeated by Ferdinand’s friendliness and left the arena. A classic liberal-democratic fairy tale that makes children think that they are acting right and winning something by walking away from conflict. Things are different in life. There are special people in corrida, named "picadors," which stab the bull with spears and make him fight. Or die of blood loss.

This is what Mr. Putin is doing. He is forcing the West to finally do something in the name of its values, not just talk, but the West has been stubbornly resistant to those "provocation" for years.

The moment of truth is coming for the West, Putin, and Ukraine in this war. The threat of an explosion at the ZNPP is very real, and the consequences are nightmarish. The West (NATO) must intervene directly on the side of Ukraine or they will lose together. That is exactly what the question is about now. It was the same question before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, during the destruction of Aleppo in Syria in 2015, in Crimea and in Donbass in 2014, in Georgia in 2008... It just wasn't that obvious then. The West has long ago chosen shame over war in its relations with Putin's Russia.

W. Churchill wrote to his friend Lloyd George on Aug 13, 1938: “I think we shall have to choose in the next few weeks between war and shame, and I have very lit¬tle doubt what the decision will be.

I have no doubt that the collective West will once again choose shame over war in the face of the threat of radioactive contamination of half of Europe and desperately push Ukraine toward Putin's "peace”. The emissary for peace, Turkish President R. Erdoğan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have already met with the Ukrainian president in Lviv recently to discuss this topic among others.

Now everything is going towards the fact that the parties will reach an agreement, although much will depend on the US position. Ukraine does not yet agree to territorial concessions, but everything depends on who is asking and how. If the international community (including the US) does its best to persuade Ukraine to make peace, it will probably do so, because the Ukrainians do not have their own means to continue waging war.

Putin will manage to convince his citizens of his "victory. He won't win, but he won't lose in Ukraine either, which means that the war between Russia and the West is postponed indefinitely. I wonder what reparations Ukraine will be able to get for tens of thousands of its murdered and maimed citizens, the territories seized and the country's infrastructure destroyed.

Almost entire democratic world could not defeat authoritarian Putin. This is a shame (or fate). However, one must be clear that it is not that Mr. Putin is so good, it is the West that is so bad. The democratic mighty but peaceful Ferdinand refuses to fight and is therefore doomed to live in constant fear of another war. For Taiwan, for example.

P.S. Dear Reader! I am very much interested in your opinion on the subject of this article. Please, write a comment or ask a question if you want to clarify something.
Igor Chykalov
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