It's time to stop pouring gasoline on the fire in Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine continues into its sixth month, the Biden administration announced on Monday that it was releasing another $1 billion in Ukraine security assistance out of the $40 billion Congress authorized in May.  The ongoing dribbling out of military assistance into a war zone the size of France won't have any meaningful effect in preventing Russia from winning.  All it will do is contribute to an already devastating impact on the Ukrainian population of some 40 million.  Regardless of U.S. assistance, Ukraine faces utter destruction under a relentless, withering conflict.

Already, Ukraine has been suffering some 500 deaths and 2,500 wounded a week for months.  These are numbers on par with U.S. losses at the height of the Vietnam war in 1968.  But the infrastructure needed for military aid to make an impact simply isn't there.  The uncertainty of the timing and size of each new tranche of aid makes it impossible for Ukraine's military planners to effectively integrate new weapons into any kind of tactical defensive posture.  When they do receive tranches, they must take soldiers off the line and train them to use and maintain the new equipment, on the fly, as it were.

Further, it's become clear that Russia has shifted strategy and is now focused on conducting a relentless artillery-based bombardment of everything in its path west to the Dnipro River.  If this approach sounds familiar, it's what the USSR did at the end of World War II, as General Zhukov led three armies across the Oder River to the Seelow Heights before entering Berlin.  It was a relentless slog.  And just like then, they'll keep at it now for as long as it takes.  If Russia is famous for anything militarily, it is its ability to grind.

And what of the Biden administration's strategic response to all this?  To basically stop talking about it.  While the Beltway political machine mindlessly talks about defending democracy in Ukraine, winter is coming, and Europe is beginning to grasp the energy disaster it is confronting.  The West's strategic agenda for degrading Russia through sanctions is proving every day to be an ever more embarrassing political gimmick with little critical thought given to any of the unintended consequences of their actions.  Russia's economy was supposed to collapse.  The opposite has happened.  The ruble was supposed to crash. It's now trading higher than at any time in the last seven years.  The European Union was going to punish Russia by not buying its oil and gas.  Russia sold it all and more to China, India, and others.  Putin was supposed to go down in flames.  He's more popular than ever.

There is little to be gained by reviewing the highly questionable overreach of NATO in contributing to the conflict.  Nor in debating the foolishness or desperation exhibited by Putin's proceeding with invasion.  Ukraine has certainly overperformed.  But it's getting tired.  Russia has certainly underperformed.  That's just normal for them.  It will not matter in the end.  Russia has a vastly larger military than Ukraine can hold off indefinitely.

The only way to bring this conflict to an end is a mediated resolution.  Putin won't negotiate until he's certain there is an objective mediator in place that all the litigants will work with and have the authority to make a deal.  I propose creating a negotiating team of extraordinary individuals whose reputations, skills, and acumen are beyond reproach.  An international team capable of approaching the conflict objectively, logically, strategically, and compassionately.  Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren would be my pick to lead the team.

Steven Myers is a successful four-time CEO and serial entrepreneur, director of public and private company boards, public speaker, author, and accomplished aviator.  In 1992, at the end of the Cold War, he became the first American since Charles Lindbergh in 1931 to pilot an aircraft into the Russian Kamchatka peninsula.  There he formed one of the first post-Soviet-era joint ventures.  He writes about this in his book Cross Winds: Adventure and Entrepreneurship in the Russian Far East.

Myers served three terms on the U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy under two secretaries of state as well as on the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council Task Force on Cyber Resources.

Image: Manhhai.

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