April 22, 2022

Battle of Donbas

Russian forces launched a new offensive push along most of Ukraine's eastern flank on Monday and the ‘Battle of Donbas’ has now begun, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy and senior officials said. Ukraine's army has been bracing for a new Russian assault on its eastern flank since Moscow withdrew its forces from near Kyiv and from Ukraine's north late last month.” Reuters

“President Joe Biden pledged an additional $1.3 billion Thursday for new weapons and economic assistance to help Ukraine in its strong but increasingly difficult battle against the Russian invasion… The new package includes $800 million in military aid for much-needed heavy artillery, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and drones for the escalating battle in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.” AP News

Many on both sides urge the US and Europe to provide Ukraine with sufficient weapons to defeat the Russian offensive:

“The West, out of fear of wider war, has allowed Putin to define what counts as a NATO war with Russia. Thus, the Biden administration has gotten into hair-splitting exercises, in which supplying the West’s most sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons does not count as a war with Russia, but supplying planes does… Putin’s latest pronouncement warned that Western provision of the ‘most sensitive’ weapons systems could produce ‘unpredictable consequences.’ He is playing the West for fools, and succeeding…

“I know, national-security experts a lot better informed than I, with access to the most sensitive intelligence, precisely calibrate these questions. Except that the calibrations about what weapons would risk wider war mutate from week to week (why would howitzers risk World War III in March but not in April?), and Putin is still winning. Except that all of my adult life, which spans the disasters in Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Ukraine, the best and the brightest kept getting it wrong… Send Zelensky what he needs.”
Robert Kuttner, American Prospect

“The United States and its allies face a choice: go for a stalemate and all but ensure that Putin, once he has reconstituted his forces, will invade yet again (this time with a greater risk of escalation into NATO territory); or supply Ukraine with what it needs today to defeat Putin’s army and, in doing so, transform the regional security equation. Only when Russia has been pushed out of Eastern Europe will the region have a shot at becoming anchored in the West…

“Most importantly, at this moment of historical change in global power distribution, Ukraine’s victory over Russia could bring about a lasting peace in Europe and, with it, a fundamental change in the security equation in Asia.”
Andrew A. Michta, City Journal

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

Some argue, “The United States and its NATO allies are speeding up delivery of heavier weapons to help Ukraine withstand the coming Russian onslaught, if not actually win the war. There is a larger question that both sides, particularly the West, will need to address soon, though: What happens to Ukraine once the fighting slows or the war stops? The answer is straightforward: For Ukraine to be truly free and independent, it will have to be a member of the European Union and NATO…

“If the current aggression settles into the kind of back-and-forth fighting that has characterized the conflict in the Donbas for the past eight years, NATO would be inviting into its ranks a country actively at war. That would be unprecedented, but it need not be impossible. Kyiv and its new NATO allies could agree that Ukraine would continue to bear the brunt of fighting in the east, and that NATO countries would continue to supply it with the weapons and intelligence it needed to defend itself. They could also agree that NATO would not directly intervene in the conflict unless Russia again threatened Kyiv or the viability of the Ukrainian state…

“Few modern leaders have miscalculated as badly as the Russian president has. Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO would represent the final defeat of his failed strategy.”

Ivo H. Daalder, The Atlantic

Others argue, “[Congress] is full of members who yesterday could not have found Ukraine on a map but today want US missiles to shoot down Russian planes. The US/NATO plan looks forward to a long and bloody war, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians killed, Ukraine vindicated and the Russian economy destroyed. Is this a probable result? Is it desirable?…

“What still seems barely possible, at press time, is a solution that Zelensky has come halfway to suggesting, with no encouragement from the US or its European dependents: namely, a neutral Ukraine, part of the Western European community in most respects but not a member of NATO; autonomous status for the Donbas, the details to be decided perhaps by referendum; and Russian troops withdrawn, never to return. Admittedly, this would disappoint believers in a worldwide struggle-to-the-death from which either tyranny or democracy must emerge the final victor.”

David Bromwich, The Nation

From the Right

“Now is the time for the West to rush even more military aid to Kyiv as fast as it possibly can. As a first step, Ukraine needs to be sent any and all tanks that are sitting in the former Warsaw Pact nations’ tank corps that their forces can use quickly as there is no time for training now. Kyiv especially needs T-72 tanks that can take on the best of what Russia will throw at them on the ground. Ukraine is trained on them and knows how to fight with them. Ukraine also will need more assets that can strike Russian tanks and armor from the sky. That means many more Switchblade drones…

“Then there are the long-term needs to be met to ensure what is likely going to be a war that lasts months and maybe longer can be won. The West and Kyiv must set up training programs to ensure Ukraine can use more modern surplus military equipment that could help. That means along the border older M1 Abrams tanks could be stocked with Ukrainian soldiers trained on such platforms and perhaps even on older Predator drone systems as well…

“These ideas are just the minimum of what should be considered to guarantee Ukraine is not gutted and turned into another Russian puppet state. Putin will only sue for peace when he knows he has no viable path to victory.”

Harry J. Kazianis, New York Post

“The British prime minister, the leader of the European Commission, and the presidents of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have all visited Kyiv in recent days. They did so to let Ukrainians know that the West sympathizes with their sacrifices and suffering and to assure them of the West's continued military and economic support. They wanted to show that freedom matters to them. President Joe Biden, however, has not yet been to the Ukrainian capital. His absence has not gone unnoticed around the world…

The symbolism of Biden's arrival in Kyiv would be huge. Meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky and average Ukrainians alike, Biden could pledge continued American support for their courageous resistance, condemn President Vladimir Putin's vicious aggression, and deliver a landmark address on freedom in the 21st century… America stands for something. By visiting Ukraine, Biden can prove that its stand is physical as well as philosophical.”

Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

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