We need to build an exit ramp from Ukraine for Putin
The horrors we see daily on our television screens of damage to Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities are bad enough, but the prospect of escalation into a nuclear conflict now seems within the realm of possibility. That would make the damaged cities and millions of refugees that upset us today seem like the good old days if nukes start flying between two superpowers, each with thousands of warheads in inventory. Making sure that doesn't happen should be the top priority of everyone at the NATO Summit Thursday, and in Kyiv and Moscow officialdom, too.
It looks as though Putin's invasion of Ukraine is not going well, with thousands of Russian deaths and casualties; multiple dead generals; and lots of equipment, including one significant ship, destroyed.
But we must take every report from both Moscow and Kyiv with a huge grain of salt. It is the responsibility of wartime propagandists to lie whenever it might benefit their side, after all. And there are analysts who see Russia as methodically achieving its goals of partitioning Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine off from the rest, and neutralizing the rest as a buffer between itself and NATO. This color-coded map of voting results in the 2010 Ukraine election closely resembles the language preferences, with blue regions that supported Yanukovych speaking Russian and red regions that voted for Tymoshenko speaking Ukrainian.
Despite the talk of Putin lusting to restore the old boundaries of the USSR, the absolute conquest of all of Ukraine and its incorporation into the Russian Federation does not seem remotely feasible. Russia does not have the troops necessary to conquer and occupy all that territory in the face of the level of opposition it has encountered.
What, exactly, is the goal of America's and NATO's supply of arms and funds to Ukraine, and their unprecedented (and very costly to us — see oil prices and fertilizer shortages and resultant food shortages, as well as the damage to the dollar's status as reserve currency) sanctions against Russia? Are they trying to corner Putin and drive him out of office (or have him assassinated, as Lindsey Graham has stated)? It certainly seems that way. Niall Ferguson writes:
"The only end game now," a senior administration official was heard to say at a private event earlier this month, "is the end of Putin regime. Until then, all the time Putin stays, [Russia] will be a pariah state that will never be welcomed back into the community of nations. China has made a huge error in thinking Putin will get away with it. Seeing Russia get cut off will not look like a good vector and they'll have to re-evaluate the Sino-Russia axis. All this is to say that democracy and the West may well look back on this as a pivotal strengthening moment."
I gather that senior British figures are talking in similar terms. (snip)
Betting on a Russian revolution is betting on an exceedingly rare event, even if the war continues to go badly for Putin; if the war turns in his favor, there will be no palace coup.
At his press conference in Brussels yesterday following the NATO summit, Biden muddied up the goal of the sanctions that are imposing a high cost on Americans and the status of the dollar. Listen to his response to a question on sanctions, where he insists the sanctions were never meant to deter Putin and then demands "unity" on continuing them (hat tip: The Conservative Treehouse).
He is dead wrong about the intent of applying (and presumably maintaining) sanctions. The New York Post editorial board writes:
Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Feb. 11, "The president believes that sanctions are intended to deter." Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a longtime Biden crony, said Feb. 20 that the purpose of sanctions "is to try to deter Russia from going to war" and Feb. 23 that sanctions are a bid "to try to deter Russia from taking further aggression." Other top officials chimed in a dozen times.
They're not working. Putin is demanding payment in rubles, not petrodollars, for the billion dollars a day of oil and gas he sells to Europe (at much higher prices than before Biden took office and drove up oil prices). Fertilizer and grain shortages are driving up his revenues from those exports as well. Yes, McDonald's is closed, and there are shortages in Russia, too. But where is any sign of a weakening will to proceed? India, China, Brazil, South Africa — more than half the world's population — are not participating. China laughs and has us over a barrel.
My online friend David Kahn writes:
Any result that is perceived as a loss for Putin risks his political survival and possibly his death. So he can't give up. He needs at least a face-saving result. If this war persists he will undoubtedly have to employ more and more draconian measures. There's an old saying that used to apply in the Middle East that the Arabs would fight the Jews to the last Palestinian. Is the West fighting Putin to the last Ukrainian? What result can be crafted that can end this war and save the lives of Ukrainians and maybe others? And don't lose sight of the fact that the sanctions will impose great costs and hardships on people all over the world.
So is the cost of victory worth the price?
If that price includes nuclear escalation by a cornered Putin, certain that a war crimes trial or death à la Gaddafi awaits his defeat, the answer surely is no.
Stephen Green provides the sane response at PJ Media. We should
be taking Sun Tzu's ancient advice to heart.
"Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across," he told winning generals.
In other words: When the other guy is effectively beaten but still needs to keep his dignity intact, offer him a gracious way out. You never know how much fight he might have left in him, or what desperate-stupid thing he might try if you insist on pushing him too hard.
Not warring is almost always better than warring, particularly in the case of Ukraine, which is Not. Our. War.
Can you guess what Presidentish Joe Biden is doing instead?
If you guessed, "The most extreme and dangerous exact opposite of what Sun Tzu would have done," well … BINGO.
For the sake of Ukraine and of the world, build an exit ramp for Putin.
Graphic credit: Victoria Borodinova, Pixabay license.