Committing to Ukraine
We need to make a long-term commitment to Ukrainian victory. Jack Watling:
Given that offensive operations to liberate occupied territories are likely to run through 2023 and are dependent upon Western aid, it is important that Ukraine’s international partners stop periodic announcements about specific lists of equipment and instead articulate a longer-term commitment to structural aid out to 2024. The reasons for this are straightforward. Firstly, it would remove the political pressure from the Ukrainian government to expend combat power to make short-term gains at the expense of longer-term prospects. Secondly, it would generate more realistic expectations among Western publics about the duration and impact of the conflict, and therefore reduce their vulnerability to Russian propaganda. Thirdly, and most importantly, it would show the Russians that their prospects are deteriorating.
Much of Russia’s willingness to grind on in the face of setbacks has been premised upon a belief – and perhaps a self-deluding hope – that Western support for Ukraine will fade. If this war is to end, it is vital that the Russian leadership understand that in the medium to long term their position on the ground will get worse, the capability gap between their forces and the Ukrainian military will expand, and the gap between their rhetoric and the reality will become insurmountable. In this context, public commitments to provide Ukraine with combat aircraft like Gripen may take a year to come to fruition, but the impact of such a long-term commitment on the Russian government should not be underestimated.
As during the assault on Kyiv or the abandonment of Snake Island, Russia’s leadership have demonstrated that they are prepared to desist when they see a bigger failure looming on the horizon . . .
I would add that announcements are not enough; we need to get all needed legal and financial commitments from the United States Congress, given the real possibility that Democrats will lose control of Congress in the upcoming elections and the risk that partisan fanatics and Putin fanboys in the Republican party will block additional aid. (I’m not sure how far existing authorizations will go, but an additional commitment will send a clear message to Putin and prevent Republican obstructionism.) It’s not clear that a collapse in support in France, Germany or the south of Europe will prevent a Ukrainian victory (assuming as I do that one is possible) as long as support for Ukraine remains strong among Russia’s neighbors (which it will) and the U.S. The U.S. is the both the 800 pound gorilla and potentially the weakest link.
Biden should also start talking up the battlefield successes of the Ukrainian armed forces. Americans will back Ukraine if they see a path to victory. And highlighting Ukraine’s successes – with U.S. support – fills an important domestic politics need for Biden: it will give him another win in the run up to the elections. (Biden can also draw a clear contrast between his support for Ukraine and Trump’s continued support for Putin, but this risks polarizing support for Ukraine.)
Finally, military victory in Ukraine is essential:
I disagree. The longer the war drags on, the longer the risk of World War III (and the more risky it becomes if one side starts losing). Also, the longer food, fertilizer and energy prices are elevated, starving more people in many countries than die in Ukraine on both sides, although will be lots if the war keeps going. We’re wasting money on weapons when we should be fighting climate change. I don’t think the US needs to single-handedly run the world, which is what this is about to the US (and China next). Buy some weapons, suffer a little inflation, but our weapons makers and fossil fuel and food exporters are doing great. Ukrainians are dying; Europe is hit much harder by the sanctions that we are. We’re being very selfish. We could at least pretend to be interested in a negotiated end, which we were not even when Zelensky was.
I agree that the risk of nuclear escalation is real and needs to be factored into an overall assessment of strategy. The problem is that if we say “Russia can do whatever it wants because it has nuclear weapons” then where does this end? Where does Russia stop, and what about the incentives it gives to other countries? This is why I think the short run costs of the war need to be tolerated. Even if Russia refrains from nuclear escalation, which is very likely, if Ukraine is forced to negotiate on unfavorable terms what will Russia do next? Beyond committing genocide in Ukraine and imposing a murderous totalitarianism that will last for decades?
The money required to help Ukraine is small; committing $50 billion is less than .25% of one year’s GDP. And there is no reason to think that if we don’t spend this money on Ukraine we will spend it on climate or poverty alleviation or any other worthy project. The suffering in Europe will be real, but tolerable; most Germans support aid to Ukraine despite the hardships.
Finally, I am fine with negotiations, but I don’t think there is room for a negotiated settlement now unless the United States forces Ukraine to give up by withholding aid. Putin is not willing to give up any territory for peace. Nothing is stopping the parties from negotiating except that they disagree profoundly on the future of Ukraine. Pretending to negotiate won’t change that reality unless we leave Ukraine to the mercy of Russia.
All of those 155s sent to Ukraine were USMC surplus. USMC is going to Himars to replace them until something occurs to screw up transmissions, then they will be back to the Howitzers. Ukraine is doing a great job against a supposed superior military. The military budget could be cut to fund efforts for climate control. People could drive slower to conserve, etc. But the spoiled brats do not. We could be leaders on conservation, but half the nation thinks it’s a joke because their leaders want to play political games. Saw your coment and thought I would respond.
Eventually, something has to give.
Shock Waves Hit the Global Economy, Posing Grave Risk to Europe
NY Times – Sep 8
Meanwhile, Europe has a lot of old-growth forests they can cut down for fuel & heat and they are proceeding to do so.
Europe Is Sacrificing Its Ancient Forests for Energy
NY Times – Sep 7
(A whole lot of graphics at the link.)
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Looks Like a ‘Failure,’ CIA Director Says
NY Times – Sep 8
Setting the Way Back Machine for 2002…
US Must Work to Keep Victory in Afghanistan from Unraveling
Brookings Institution – March 2002
So, how did that turn out, after the US ‘victory’ accomplished largely by the CIA & ‘Special Ops’ in Afghanistan back in 2002?
Folks here have rejected my posts previously about parallels between the current Ukraine situation & the American Civil War. However, it seems to me that Europe did not appreciably intervene to end our Civil War, the Union was preserved, and the US went on to become the world power that it has been for a hundred years or more, for good or ill. (But we did get our start when France intervened against their rival Britain to bring our Revolutionary War to what we considered a successful conclusion.)
What is happening in Ukraine got its start in the collapse of the USSR, and sloppy decision making by Boris Yeltsin which Vlad Putin is trying desperately to reverse. The US with NATO is trying to stop him and save the plucky Ukrainians. Realistically, there is a limit to what can be achieved there, and hopefully the world will not be blown to bits before the right choices are made.