It looks as though the war is widening in Ukraine
Reuters reports that the Turkish government has removed its objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. President Biden called it a move that "will strengthen our Alliance and bolster our collective security." More U.S. and Western arms are being shipped to Ukraine. A few days ago, a Ukrainian military spokesman said the village of Desna in its northern Chernigiv region came under massive bombardment from Belarus. If that's true, the Russia-Ukraine war has already widened. And there is little, if any, movement toward a negotiated solution to the war.
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign ministry called the European Union's recent grant of candidate status to Ukraine a further effort to "contain Russia" and to monopolize Russia's geopolitical space. The reaction to Finland and Sweden moving closer to NATO membership will likely produce more Russian condemnation — and perhaps worse.
A glance at a map will reveal Russia's security dilemma. If and when Finland and Sweden join NATO, the Russian state will be confronted with a hostile military alliance along virtually its entire European border — only Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia are buffer states. And the U.S. and some other NATO powers have previously suggested that at least two of those countries — Ukraine and Georgia — could become NATO members, too. Viewed from Moscow, it is a menacing geopolitical position, and all of the soothing talk about NATO being a purely defensive alliance will do nothing to change Moscow's view.
America's leaders would do well to consider the analysis and proposals of Dan Caldwell in his recent article in The National Interest, entitled "America in a World of Limits." Caldwell, a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War and former congressional staffer, warns that we are in the grip of a "delusional foreign policymaking elite that ignores real constraints on American power." He advocates a sober, realistic approach to the Ukraine war and broader international relations.
First, we should allow "our wealthy European partners" to provide for their own security. Those partners have more than enough wealth to fund European armies that can deter any further Russian expansion. This means the development of "non-NATO security architectures in Europe," with fewer U.S. troop deployments in Europe and an end to any further NATO expansion. It also means, Caldwell writes, refusing to expand our security commitments in the Middle East.
The U.S. should shift resources to East Asia, where "real U.S. interests are at stake." Defense budgets "should prioritize funding for the Air Force and Navy," the two services that "would be at the forefront of any potential conflict in the Pacific." Caldwell here is describing a genuine (instead of a rhetorical) "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific that is long overdue. But even there, Caldwell writes, we should "avoid overinflating the threat posed by China."
While Caldwell may be a bit sanguine about the China threat, his larger points that we need to husband our resources and recognize the limits on our power are sound and realistic. Post–Cold War hubris led us to fight "endless wars," expand NATO, and pursue policies that pushed Russia into the arms of China, even as we dangerously reduced our navy and nuclear forces, that has led to America's costly overreach and consequent geopolitical decline. Getting more involved on the side of Ukraine and further expanding NATO to Finland and Sweden are, he writes, "the same failed policies that led us to where we are today [and] will only guarantee American decline — not greatness."
Image via Public Domain Pictures.