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To the editor:
“The self-deception that believes the lie” is a lyric from the Rodgers and Hart song, “I Wish I Were In Love Again.” Unfortunately, it also describes the behavior of many politicians, such as our dogmatic law-and-order mayor, the predatory, belligerent former Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the champion of self-deception, Donald Trump.
This lyric is not restricted to the behavior of American politicians. It also includes President Vladimir Putin, the aggressor in Ukraine and potential war criminal, and President Volodymyr Zelensky, the inspiring leader in Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion.
Putin’s self-deception was his belief that Russia could unilaterally change a post-war border in Europe without an enormous military, economic and political blowback from the U.S. and its European allies. He also believed that the Russian military could easily defeat Ukraine, and incorporate it into the Russian federation without opposition from the vast majority of that nation’s citizens.
Zelensky is not immune to his own self-deception. He’s so confident of a victory by next spring that he has proposed a 10-point peace plan. Each point could be implemented in a month, and if the Kremlin rejected the plan, it meant that it only wanted war.
Zelensky appears to have overlooked two things. First, this is not how two sides facing a stalemate negotiate an end to war. Second, Moscow would never sign this peace plan unless Putin is removed, a new government decides not to escalate the war, and Russia unconditionally surrenders. It’s highly unlikely any of the above would happen.
In the meantime, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has taken a terrible toll. There are 100,000 casualties on each side. The Russian bombing of infrastructure by mid-November had left 10 million people without electricity, with nearly half of the energy grid damaged. The war has resulted in millions of refugees and internally displaced Ukrainians, as well as caused economic havoc around the world.
The Biden administration has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars of weapons. It has organized widespread sanctions against Russia, maintains the world’s largest military, and dominates the world economy. Washington has a responsibility to put maximum pressure on our ally Zelensky and our adversary Putin, whatever their self-deceptions, to negotiate an end to this dangerous and destructive war.
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