March 24, 2022

Ukraine

“The Biden administration on Wednesday made a formal determination that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine and said it would work with others to prosecute offenders, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said… He cited attacks on the civilian population in the besieged city of Mariupol and elsewhere. Neither Russia nor the U.S. recognizes the authority of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, presenting obvious difficulties for seeking accountability for war crimes committed in Ukraine.” AP News

“NATO estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance from the country’s defenders has denied Moscow the lightning victory it sought… With its ground forces slowed or stopped by hit-and-run Ukrainian units armed with Western-supplied weapons, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops are bombarding targets from afar, falling back on the tactics they used in reducing cities to rubble in Syria and Chechnya.” AP News

Both sides are worried about long-term geopolitical ramifications:

"To us, it appears nuts, this deliberate sacrifice of lives and well-being to [Putin’s] grandiose, doomed geopolitical scheme. As National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson puts it, ‘the purportedly soft and undisciplined West put Russia on its a-- in about five minutes when push came to shove.’ Yet it’s still early: Putin has cards to play, starting with the fact that the West’s sanctions against Russia also entail costs for Americans and Europeans… Russia still appears able to count on China’s backing, as well as the neutrality of such large countries as India… Brazil depends on Russia for 22 percent of its fertilizer supply…

“Even at this late date, we might still not be taking Putin quite seriously enough. He has been preparing for this war and associated diplomatic initiatives assiduously for years; his goals extend well beyond Ukraine or Europe. ‘The current crisis,’ his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said, ‘reflects the battle in the broadest sense of the word for what the world order will look like.’ Putin is deeply invested in it — not only politically, but emotionally — and, determined not to fail for lack of will, as he believes the Soviet leadership did, he is likely to persist.”
Charles Lane, Washington Post

Washington needs to start thinking seriously about Russia’s long-term trajectory. In 1989, the administration of President George H.W. Bush quietly created a planning group to consider what might happen amid earthshaking changes in the Soviet Union. Regardless of what happens in this crisis, Russia is big and powerful enough that its trajectory will be vital to the overall health of the international order — which means that the U.S. needs to be ready for whatever direction the country takes…

“Even in the best-case scenario, the U.S. would confront enormous challenges helping a liberalizing Russia emerge from authoritarian rule. More plausibly, Washington could face a recalcitrant, perhaps even a further radicalized, Russia instead. The war in Ukraine will eventually end, but America’s problems with Russia may only be getting started.”
Hal Brands, Bloomberg

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

"Four years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron, newly arrived in office, proposed a European Defense Force -- a counterweight to a NATO alliance he and increasingly other EU leaders feared was being effectively held hostage by the United States and especially Donald Trump. The result at the time was a rupture between Trump and Macron, followed by the French leader's rapprochement with then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Still, Macron's idea went no further. Until now…

“Europe now intends to act, in unison and with determination, to build a powerful military-industrial structure that can spring into action whenever and wherever the collective or even individual interests may be threatened…

“What should be the response of NATO and especially the United States to what could be seen as a direct challenge to their 73-year maintenance of peace in Europe? Unquestioned and unquestionable support and encouragement… Any wavering in that support can only be seen by Vladimir Putin and other challengers to the world order as a victory to be seized and exploited. This is the time to present a united front in whatever form it might take against autocracy and aggression now and in the future.”

David A. Andelman, CNN

"Biden is visiting Europe this week to meet NATO allies and take part in an EU summit. The allies have a security crisis to manage, so commerce won’t be front of mind. But it isn’t too soon for them to recognize the value of closer economic cooperation or for the U.S. to rediscover its enthusiasm for liberal trade. Trump notwithstanding, tariffs between the U.S. and the EU are mostly quite low…

"The main import barriers arise from differences in regulation — over food safety, environmental policy, labor protections and so forth. Grappling with different sets of rules raises costs substantially for producers and consumers alike, and holds back growth and living standards… It’s indisputable that Covid-19 and Putin’s war demand new thinking about international relations. High on the list should be efforts to build stronger alliances — and to recover forgotten truths about trade and mutually assured prosperity.”

The Editors, Bloomberg

From the Right

“Russia’s operation in Mariupol, the strategically located port city on the Sea of Azov, has been blatantly bloody-minded. It hasn’t even made a pretense of honoring basic decency, let alone the modern rules and norms around warfare. The Russians have cut off food, electricity and medical supplies and have been reducing the freezing city to rubble. By some estimates, 80% of the residential buildings in the city have been damaged. The Russians, notoriously, shelled a maternity ward, along with a theater and a school where people were sheltering…

“Although much of Europe has left behind this kind of machtpolitik, neither Russia nor China has. Putin’s brutalizing of Ukraine is a reminder of how essential it is to support the Western order — the alternative is so much worse. It is a reminder of how human affairs can easily slide backward — the history of civilization is of folly, catastrophe and decline as well as of enlightenment, achievement and progress. And it is a reminder that when a nation is determined to rule by blood and iron, hard power is the only deterrent and recourse — if anything saves Ukraine, it will be missiles, drones and artillery, not norms or treaties.”

Rich Lowry, New York Post

“It may be Vladimir Putin’s war and strategy, but the ground operations are being coordinated by Russian generals on the frontlines, and they are every bit as culpable as their commander in the Kremlin. Those generals will be prosecuted as war criminals in the future. They should be subjected to sanctions now… Few generals may enjoy great wealth, but travel bans against them and their families sting…

“While the generals may delegate authority for technical details, they are responsible for the tactical prosecution of the war, imposing restrictions such as no-fire zones. It’s their job to identify and declare off-limits civilian sites such as houses of worship, medical facilities and schools…

“They are also responsible for establishing collateral-damage guidelines to ensure that prohibited targets aren’t incidentally struck when an authorized target is engaged… [They] bear responsibility for the enormous loss in lives and destruction of infrastructure in Ukraine.”
Mark Kimmitt, Wall Street Journal

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