With all due respect to Prof. Thomas Blaha ("To make peace, make well the wounded Russian soul," Opinion Exchange, June 21), I found his proposed approach to ending Russian aggression in Ukraine to be singularly naive. While I do agree that there is more to Russia's motivations in invading Ukraine than mere territorial gains, offering it help and reintegration into the existing world order as a recognized global player, along with the expected absolution for its murderous actions, as an incentive to stopping the war would actually be nothing less than appeasement. History is littered with the remains of such failed attempts.
This kind of approach only works after the aggressor has been defeated, at which point the task of addressing the underlying root cause of the conflict can be undertaken and reintegration initiated, with postwar Japan being a shining example. But even then there are many pitfalls to this process, as illustrated by the utter failure of the victorious Allied forces to rehabilitate post-World War I Germany, choosing crippling punitive sanctions over effective reform, which eventually led to the rise of Nazi Germany. In the context of post-Soviet Russia, the Western powers effectively made the same mistake, and we are now paying the price for it.
Walid Maalouli, Eagan
Blaha's commentary urges a more conciliatory approach to Russia to deal with its "heartfelt humiliations experienced by a nation that was once one of the big players in the global political world." He urges "Western support for Russia in its attempts to rebuild the Ukrainian infrastructure" — after Russia finishes destroying it, apparently.
He offers as a historical example: "Did not the West after World War II do the same with the defeated and wounded western part of Germany through the Marshall Plan? Did it not make the former enemy a valued member of the Western community? And was this not a success story?"
Two historical notes:
- Germany was first defeated — as he points out, with Russian help, though he phrases it as "Russia ... defeated Hitler."
- Blaha, who writes that he "grew up in the east of Germany occupied by the Russians," neglects to mention that Russia supported the repressive East German regime and its Berlin Wall.
Hal Davis, Minneapolis
I think Blaha is correct about the root of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but he is overlooking several important points.
First, we cannot be certain that "80% of the Russian people are standing firmly behind [Russian President Vladimir] Putin" for two important reasons. The percentage comes from the Russian government. And even if the number is accurate, how much has it been influenced by the draconian measures taken by Putin's government to suppress dissent? In a society that still denounces neighbors for disloyalty, people are unlikely to trust the impartiality of anyone asking such a question.
The second point that Blaha overlooks is that Germany was motivated to rebuild and accepted the offer of help in the Marshall Plan. The strongest economy in the world was offering to bring Germany back to its feet, exactly the opposite of the expectations of the German people and government. They fully expected an imposed treaty such as ended World War I, with Germany expected to pay for the restoration of the victorious countries. Instead, millions of American dollars and years of American expertise flowed to them. It must have been a heady realization that Germany was being forgiven for much of what it had done. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia became an oligarchic kleptocracy. Its economy was carved up among the friends and supporters of the government. They have no interest in their country becoming a democracy. They'd have too much to lose. Unless the Russian people decide to take the risk and rise against the government, there is little hope that the government would accept the changes necessary to become something other than what it is.
The last point I'd like to make is that the people who had led Germany into defeat were either dead or in custody and awaiting trial. In Russia, exactly the opposite is true. Referring to my previous point, the oligarchs are unlikely to remove themselves from power, and Putin is unlikely to deal kindly with contrary opinions of his "special operations." His outspoken critics and perceived threats to his reign have been imprisoned, attacked and murdered. I don't see him changing that behavior any time this side of the grave.
As much as I agree with Blaha about the roots of Russia's insecurity, I think he has a rosy opinion of how it might be ameliorated. As long as the current government is repressing the people and funneling vast amounts of money to the ones in power, it has no motivation to adopt a democratic or republican form of government.
Daniel Patrick Beckfield, New Brighton
Constituents are none too pleased
I am a county commissioner from western Minnesota (Pope County) who is serving in my 14th year in that role. In that span, I have heard promises time and again from the state legislators how this legislative session is going to be different from other sessions.
"We're going to do the important things first." "We've got to pass bills in a bipartisan fashion to serve our constituents across all of Minnesota." "There won't be any last-minute deals cut by a select few in our caucus."
Well, guess what? In a year with an unprecedented surplus and many areas where money is sorely needed, the Legislature once again played the party game and kicked the can down the road ("Walz declares legislative impasse," June 17). Consider transportation, where the price of maintaining and building roads will cost how much more in the future due to skyrocketing costs? It is a pipe dream to think one party will control all branches of the state government, so rather than wait, I implore the Legislature to hold a special session now and do its job.
Our constituents are also your constituents, and you can rest assured we hear from them continually about the lack of action by the legislators.
Compromise is not a dirty word, but obstruction certainly is.
Gordy Wagner, Glenwood, Minn.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt's opinion piece in Wednesday's paper is so full of inaccurate and misleading information that it's hard to know where to start to respond ("Democrats could have helped you this session, but they declined"). I'll simply highlight the fact that he carefully omitted the fact that the governor and House and Senate leadership all agreed to a tax package that, among other things, included significant cuts, but also tied it to essential new spending to support education, public safety, health care and other key priorities of importance to Minnesotans and communities across the state. So, no, the House and Gov. Tim Walz did not oppose tax cuts or increased funding for public safety, they simply believed that cuts alone would not solve the state's problems and address its needs. And a tip for seeing through Daudt's rhetoric — be very suspicious of cases made using such loaded terms as "dark-money groups" and "woke politics." When you're running against realities like the nation's lowest unemployment rate and some of the lowest rates of COVID infections and deaths, I guess you have to resort to such dog whistles to reach a narrow political constituency.
Cyndy Crist, St. Paul
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This is what our democracy has come to: "Democrats could have helped you this session, but they declined." Essentially, "The other party failed to 'compromise' and do it our way." You hear it from both sides. I hope and pray the electorate has the sense to see through it.
Don Bixler, Brooklyn Park