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: