Last week, Vice President Biden was talking tough in the Ukraine. He called on Russia to get the pro-Russian militias in East Ukraine to leave the buildings that they are occupying. Otherwise, Russia might find itself “isolated”. Is Putin shaking in his KGB boots? Hardly. When not making harsh statements about possible military action in the neighboring state, where Russian forces are already at work by all indications, he’s on the phone with President Obama. So as the VP gets as blunt as a European diplomat during the Balkans War, the President negotiates with Putin, or at least chats on the phone with him. In this political theatre — There are real deaths occurring in Donetsk as this theatre plays out — does anyone believe that Russia will adhere to the frayed, if not collapsed, Geneva Accord?

One is sorely tempted to ask: what would President Reagan have done? But perhaps we need to turn to another leader that Reagan surely admired. What would Churchill have done? What is happening in East Ukraine seems to resemble the late forties and the Soviet occupation of Europe, all over again. Donetsk is not Berlin or Prague, but it is a sovereign state under siege if not yet invasion by Russia, where Putin’s ambition to recreate some form of the Soviet Union if not the Warsaw Pact is fairly clear. By the late forties Churchill was out of power and had lost the battle with Roosevelt over whether to confront their former wartime ally. The Iron Curtain had fallen and Operation Unthinkable, the British code name for a planned war with the Soviets, had been shelved. It would have been costly in life and treasure and would have prolonged the war, but might have freed Eastern Europe from Soviet occupation. Does 2014 resemble 1946? That would be dramatic, but Europe’s willingness to stand up to Putin seems to depend on how much gas flows from East to West. In other words, no one wants to confront Putin. There is no Churchill, or Pope John Paul II, or Thatcher, and the best we can hope for is that the ties of commerce and trade that bind Russia with her neighbors to the West will ultimately force Putin and his wealthy backers to show some restraint. And for that, we have President Reagan to thank, who turned the world back towards freedom and achieved what most at the time had believed impossible: he took on the Soviets and won.

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