June 7, 2022


Russia's invasion of Ukraine entered its 100th day [last] Friday with no end in sight to the fighting that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and reduced cities to rubble.” Reuters

Many on both sides stress that the US must maintain realistic goals in the conflict:

“Our military support for Ukraine has worked: We have safeguarded a sovereign nation and weakened a rival without dangerous escalation from the Russian side. And for now, with Russia continuing to mount offensives while mostly avoiding the bargaining table, there isn’t any obvious off-ramp to peace that we ought to force Kyiv to take…

“[Yet] our plan cannot be to keep writing countless checks while tiptoeing modestly around the Ukrainians and letting them dictate the ends to which our guns and weaponry are used. The United States is an embattled global hegemon facing threats more significant than Russia. We are also an internally divided country led by an unpopular president whose majorities may be poised for political collapse…

“So if Kyiv and Moscow are headed for a multiyear or even multidecade frozen conflict, we will need to push Ukraine toward its most realistic rather than its most ambitious military strategy. And just as urgently, we will need to shift some of the burden of supporting Kyiv from our own budget to our European allies.”

Ross Douthat, New York Times

“The options before the US and Europe have always been blindingly clear. They could throw their full support behind Ukraine’s resistance to Russia, make sanctions watertight and cut off all financial support for Putin’s war machine. Or they could bring forward the unavoidable obligation to talk to their enemies and offer incentives for both Ukraine and Russia to reach a negotiated solution…

“Nations that depend on Russia for its energy and food needs won’t end their relationship with the country overnight — not even Germany will do so. Also, increasingly direct military confrontation with a nuclear-armed state is unwise. Yet the second option is hardly being vigorously pursued right now. Thus, Ukraine receives from the West neither the weapons it seeks for a more fruitful war effort, nor sufficient motivation to pursue peace through diplomacy…

“Declarations that ‘the West must hold its nerve,’ even as death and destruction stalk Ukraine, fuel the suspicion that achieving some kumbaya moment of synchronized purpose and identity has become more vital to the West than averting a global humanitarian catastrophe.”

Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“[Biden] has been right to avoid getting embroiled in direct combat with the Russians; hence his refusal to declare a no-fly zone. But he is still hobbled by excessive caution in the provision of aid… Biden would do well to remember the Powell Doctrine, formulated by the late secretary of state Colin L. Powell. He counseled against getting involved in ‘halfhearted half-wars’ and argued that when the United States uses force, it should do so with overwhelming might to win…

“The same doctrine should apply to military assistance: Instead of offering Ukraine just enough aid to avoid being defeated, we should be providing such overwhelming support that it can win the war (meaning, liberate most of the territory lost since Feb. 24). Ukraine shows no sign of tiring of the struggle. Neither should we.”

Max Boot, Washington Post

Others argue that, “if we extend this war to bleed Russia out, we’re creating a situation where Russia will rely even more intensely on its nuclear force… When UN secretary general António Guterres went to Moscow, Putin had a very telling speech. It was pretty defensive about the extent to which he’s ready for diplomacy but kind of laid out what Russia sees as the minimum, which is that Ukrainian neutrality, Donbas, and Crimea have to be on the table. It’s a big step back from its maximalist goals at the beginning of the war…

“Those goals are compatible with a highly beneficial settlement for the United States and Ukraine, a settlement that sees Ukraine as Western-aligned, economically open to the West, independent, sovereign, and part of a European security order that’s way more stable than having an unsettled shooting war in Eastern Ukraine for the foreseeable future…

“There’s got to be people in the US discourse who are willing to define this as a win. Because it is a win — a massive win compared to Russia’s goals in 2013, which included a firmly Russian-aligned Ukraine, and a big win compared to its goals at the start of the war.”

Marcus Stanley, Jacobin Magazine

From the Right

“Moscow’s food blockade will cause trouble far beyond Ukraine. Spiking prices and shortages could lead to food riots and political unrest across the globe… a Pentagon spokesman said ‘there are no plans to use the United States military, or military sources or assets, to assist in the movement of grain outside of Ukraine.’ Why not?…

“The White House is understandably worried about escalation, but this isn’t akin to a no-fly-zone in which the U.S. would shoot down Russian planes if they fly over Ukraine. This would be an escort operation in international waters that would take no action against Russian vessels that allowed commercial ships to sail without interference. If Mr. Putin won’t give up his blockade, what’s the better alternative?”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Russia’s supply of artillery pieces is not infinite. They have had to concentrate artillery densely in the prioritized sectors, pulling it away from other areas. They have drawn artillery (and tanks and other equipment) out of ancient Soviet-era stores… Russian milbloggers, documents revealing Russian judicial proceedings against soldiers and officers who have deserted or refused orders to fight, and intelligence reports about such incidents all paint a picture of a Russian military that is exhausted, demoralized, demotivated, and increasingly angry about its treatment…

“The current Russian offensive will almost certainly stall at a certain point, probably before it has secured the rest of Donetsk Oblast—Putin’s stated objective in this phase of the war. When it does the Russian military will likely have expended the last of its available effective offensive maneuver capability for now. There is no vast mobilization of Russian troops preparing to enter the war, no untapped reserves of combat-ready troops to send, no more areas of the front from which to draw fresh troops… If Ukrainians can weather the current Russian storm and then counterattack the exhausted Russian forces they still have every chance to free their people and all their land.”

Frederick W. Kagan, Time

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