January 21, 2022


The United States and Western countries sought to project unity and a tough stance over Ukraine on Thursday, after U.S. President Joe Biden suggested allies were split over how to react to any potential ‘minor incursion’ from Russia.” Reuters

Here’s our recent coverage of Ukraine. The Flip Side

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From the Left

The left urges the Biden administration to push back against Russian aggression.

"In one sense, what Biden said was true. There is a difference between a minor incursion (define it however you will) and a major invasion. The NATO allies, and perhaps the American public, would be less willing to make sacrifices or take extravagant steps if Putin merely took another slice of eastern Ukraine. But in the art of diplomacy and deterrence, this is not what a president should say publicly, especially as the moment of truth nears. This was a mistake. We’ll soon find out if it was a big one.”
Fred Kaplan, Slate

“A massive new GOP sanctions bill being introduced this week would go after the corruption of Putin himself, every member of his cabinet, his family members… several top oligarchs and dozens of Russian officials connected to the poisoning and imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny…

“​​Biden’s officials argue that now is not the time for more sanctions because they would just give Putin more pretext to attack. But it’s clear Putin doesn’t need any further pretext. And once the invasion is underway, the threat of sanctions becomes even less effective, because the entire game will have changed — in Putin’s favor. It’s much easier to prevent a war than to reverse one.”
Josh Rogin, Washington Post

Moving U.S. combat aircraft and ships forward to Europe would add considerably to Putin’s uncertainty about his forces’ ability to conquer Ukraine and quite possibly change his strategic calculus. U.S. air power is superior to Russia’s, and it would substantially bolster the fighting spirit and capabilities of Ukraine’s armed forces… Unequivocal statements from Germany that Russia will be cut off from the international financial system, and that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will be terminated if Russia invades Ukraine, would also weaken Putin’s confidence that he has escalation dominance.”
Michael G. Vickers, Washington Post

“[A] key backdrop for the present crisis is the Minsk agreements, a European-brokered peace deal Russia and Ukraine signed in 2015 to halt the fighting and take steps toward a more durable modus vivendi. The Minsk agreements provided for the withdrawal of troops and weaponry and the disarmament of militias, while its political sections strongly favored Russia, calling for Ukraine to decentralize and grant more local autonomy to its Russian-oriented (and largely Russian-speaking) eastern-border regions…

“The Minsk agreements dissatisfied both sides: Ukraine would be forced to make major concessions to its sovereignty, while Russia didn’t get all the assurances it wanted, such as a neutrality clause in the new Ukrainian constitution. As a result, neither side has done much to enforce the deal. If the contradictions in the Minsk agreements are a driver of the current crisis, resolving them may be the key to defusing it.”
Jonah Shepp, New York Magazine

“Every diplomatic option needs to be on the table to forestall a Russian invasion. Russia’s insistence that Nato formally close its door to all future enlargement is unrealistic, but so are any hopes that Ukraine might someday join the alliance. Staunch resistance of several allies and Ukraine’s internal obstacles to meeting the requirements make this undeniable. Biden should be ready to signal to Putin that he is willing to explore creative solutions that would acknowledge these realities. It would be an extraordinary irony if Ukraine were to lose its independence as a state over the unfillable principle that it has the right to join an alliance that does not really want it.”
Christopher S Chivvis, The Guardian

From the Right

The right is critical of Biden’s comments and strategy in general.

The right is critical of Biden’s comments and strategy in general.

‘Minor incursions’ are a key chapter in the Russian military playbook… No one particular Russian action is likely to spur a full response from NATO. Like the frog in the boiling water, the strategy is to gradually increase aggression and incursions, bit by bit, so that the shift from non-war to war happens so gradually, we never quite realize it. And by the time we do realize it, the Russians have a huge head start…

“This is why so many people reacted with horror when President Biden implied yesterday that there might not be such a strong reaction to a ‘minor incursion’ by Russian forces. A ‘minor incursion’ is exactly how the Russian strategy to seize portions of Ukraine would begin. Biden did not intend to give Putin a green light, but Putin is likely to interpret that comment as a green light.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

Why sit down with the Russians at all? As Russia menaced Europe in another era, President Dwight Eisenhower undercut British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s push for a summit with Moscow with the simple argument: Deeds matter more than rhetoric. Today, the United States is elevating Putin and negotiating at the barrel of a Kalashnikov over the future of the European security order. It should walk away and train its full attention on hardening Ukraine…

“During his stop in Kiev this week, [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken said all the right things. More important was what was left unsaid, however. Ukraine is in desperate need of large-scale defensive weapons before, not after, a full-scale Russian invasion takes place. To consider the provision of such weapons to Ukraine a provocation, as the Biden team evidently does, is especially shocking given President Biden’s prediction yesterday that Putin ‘will move in. He has to do something.’”
Peter Rough, New York Post

“The painful truth is that the foreign policy mavens who are driving American diplomacy right now are largely the same cast of characters who failed to stop (or even understand) Putin during the two terms of the Obama administration. These are all book-smart people with impressive degrees on the wall, yet who understand little about how the world really works. They came of age during the post-Cold War period of unchallenged American hegemony, when foreign policy gurus assured them that ‘soft power’ was the wave of the future and major wars were no more…

“To such elites, all of whom fall on the spectrum of Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic, WEIRD for short, Putin represents an atavism whose motivations they cannot understand. The Kremlin strongman adheres to a distinctly throwback view of international relations where the use of force is normal, and countries protect their national interests unapologetically, with all the instruments of national power…

“The happy assumptions of the 1990s are now a distant memory. History indeed did not end, and Putin is revealing many sunny WEIRD beliefs to be ill-fitted to current geopolitical realities. Putin’s broader aim with the Ukraine crisis isn’t about Kyiv, it’s about showing NATO’s impotence while revealing America’s paralysis and decadence. The strongman in the Kremlin wants to end the post-Cold War era on terms more favorable to Russia than the last three decades have been. No matter what happens next, Vladimir Putin is in the driver’s seat with the Ukraine crisis… Putin’s next [move] may well determine the fate of Europe and beyond for decades to come.”
John Schindler, Substack

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