[guest post by Dana]
I’m annoyed by a column I read this morning titled Avoiding the Nightmare Scenario in Ukraine. (To which I must point out the obvious: the nightmare scenario in Ukraine is already happening and has been for nearly a year.) While I disagree with several things in the piece (comparing Ukraine (which borders Russia and is a democratically run state) and Afghanistan (which doesn’t border Russia and is not a democratically run state) – “My nightmare scenario is making our Ukraine experience more like our Afghanistan experience. We babysit, fund, and provide the state capacity to a corrupt government” – underestimating U.S. and NATO forces, etc.), my quibble here is with a portion of the concluding view of the Ukraine-Russia situation. The author writes:
My belief from the beginning of this war remains relatively unchanged. Russia cannot create its desired Ukraine without unsustainable sacrifices. And the U.S. and the West cannot create the Ukraine of its dreams without massive risks (straining NATO to the breaking point, or leaving the Pacific undefended). That is why both sides must avoid escalating this conflict to the point where the players become convinced it can only end with NATO’s total humiliation or a regime change in Russia.
Why is Ukraine included in this warning to avoid escalation of
the conflict Putin’s war in Ukraine for any reason at all? Ukraine did not invade a sovereign nation and wage war upon it. Ukraine is not committing genocide against the Russian people in their homeland. Ukraine is not intentionally targeting civilians. Ukraine has not abducted tens of thousands of Russian children and forcibly resettled them in a place other than their homeland. Ukraine is not being led by a murderous madman. Ukraine is not escalating the war. Ukrainians are defending themselves, their homeland, their sovereignty, and their way of life against an adversary who seeks to destroy the very existence of the nation. The war ends when Russian troops voluntarily leave Ukraine with no territorial claims, or when Ukrainian forces are supplied with all of the weaponry they need and drive the Russians completely out.
But why is the West afraid of the day after Putin anyway? Consider the viewpoint of pro-democracy Russians:
The regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin is living on borrowed time. The tide of history is turning, and everything from Ukraine’s advances on the battlefield to the West’s enduring unity and resolve in the face of Putin’s aggression points to 2023 being a decisive year. If the West holds firm, Putin’s regime will likely collapse in the near future.
Yet some of Ukraine’s key partners continue to resist supplying Kyiv with the weapons it needs to deliver the knockout punch. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden in particular seems afraid of the chaos that could accompany a decisive Kremlin defeat. It has declined to send the tanks, long-range missile systems, and drones that would allow Ukrainian forces to take the fight to their attackers, reclaim their territory, and end the war. The end of Putin’s tyrannical rule will indeed radically change Russia (and the rest of the world)—but not in the way the White House thinks. Rather than destabilizing Russia and its neighbors, a Ukrainian victory would eliminate a powerful revanchist force and boost the cause of democracy worldwide.
Putin’s effort to restore Russia’s lost empire is destined to fail. The moment is therefore ripe for a transition to democracy and a devolution of power to the regional levels. But for such a political transformation to take place, Putin must be defeated militarily in Ukraine. A decisive loss on the battlefield would pierce Putin’s aura of invincibility and expose him as the architect of a failing state, making his regime vulnerable to challenge from within.
The authors also express concerns that a number of us share:
The West, and above all the United States, is capable of providing the military and financial support to hasten the inevitable and propel Ukraine to a speedy victory. But the Biden administration still hasn’t coalesced around a clear endgame for the war, and some U.S. officials have suggested that Kyiv should consider giving up part of its territory in pursuit of peace—suggestions that are not reassuring. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made it clear that the Ukrainian people will never accept such a deal. Any territorial concessions made to Putin will inevitably lead to another war down the road.
The West must do everything in its power to help prevent this from happening.