In an article I mostly agree with, Marko Hoare compares Putin to Hitler:
Putin is an aggressive despot who came to power determined to reverse the defeat and perceived humiliation of Russia in the Cold War, much as Hitler aimed to reverse Germany’s humiliation in World War I (Putin even employed a stunt to cement his power that was highly reminiscent of the 1933 Reichstag fire – the stage-managed ‘terrorist’ bombing of Russian cities by his security services, that could be conveniently blamed on the Chechens). He then used weapons of mass destruction against his own Chechen civilians, destroying the European city of Grozny. He has waged campaigns of persecution against Jewish magnates (’oligarchs’) and Caucasian ethnic minorities. He has established a fascist-style youth movement (’Nashi‘). He has suppressed the free Russian media, murdered independent journalists and effectively abolished Russian democracy.
However I disagree with this:
Some may ask whether we have any choice but to acquiesce in Russia’s geostrategic coup, given our existing military entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our concerns with Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, etc. Some may ask why we should care about distant Georgia and its territorial integrity. The best way to respond is to turn this question around, and ask whether we can afford not to care, and not to respond to Russian aggression. If we cannot afford to defend Georgia because of our existing military commitments, we presumably cannot afford to defend Ukraine, or NATO-member Estonia, should Putin decide to build upon his success by moving against one of these countries – something which, given his past record, is not unlikely. At what point do we decide that, however costly it may be, we cannot afford to stand idly by as Russia rampages across Eurasia?
This is wrong in many ways. Firstly, North Korea and Zimbabwe are no military threat to Europe; indeed these countries cannot even feed their own people properly. Iran is also no threat to Europe, even though it it ruled by a bunch of idiot religious fanatics who want to live in the dark ages and are in the habit of making ridiculous speeches denouncing Israel and pretending the Holocaust never happened.
The West does indeed have ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, modern supersonic fighter and fighter-bomber aircraft are not particularly useful in the counter-insurgency wars being fought their, so would still be available to use against Russia. If the West had used air power when Russia invaded Georgia, they would have been able to destroy the Russian air force, gain air superiority, and destroy the Russian armoured columns. (Indeed, “destroying Russian armoured columns” has been pretty much a job description for NATO air forces for most of this last half-century.) Furhthermore, if ground forces were required, remember that Georgia has a border with a NATO country (Turkey).
Defending Ukraine would be a far easier task than defending Georgia. Firstly, Ukraine is a larger and more populous country than Georgia, with a larger military, so it would be impossible for Russia to overrun it in just a few days. And Ukraine is physically located near central Europe, so NATO ground forces could fairly easily more in to reinforce it.
It’s unlikely that Putin would attack a NATO country, such as Estonia. If he did, they he must know that NATO outnumbers Russia in all types of weapons (tanks, infantry, fighter aircraft, etc), and that furthermore Western equipment is usually qualitatively superior and used by better-trained personnel.