Putin's Long Game In Ukraine: Your Thoughts
Readers sound off on the brutal war.
Not buying into my pessimism, this first reader emphasizes how Putin has shifted the goalposts:
The simple fact is, Russia’s attempt to storm into Kiev, “denazify Ukraine,” and replace the Ukrainian government with a Russian toady was a failure. So too was its attempt at breaking Ukrainian ties with Europe and NATO. Given Russia’s inability to meet the primary objective of the invasion, Putin’s strategy has already failed.
Claiming Putin is “winning” some long game would be akin to claiming the US won the War of 1812 — even though its invasion of Canada was a complete failure, and DC was sacked by the British — because the Americans won the last battle, in New Orleans. Putin simply changed his definition of victory to something more humble. In other words, he ordered steak and got hamburger meat, and now is claiming he wanted a cheeseburger all along.
This is the outcome we should want: something where every side can pretend they won. But let’s be clear: when you do not achieve what you set out to do, you have failed.
Yes and no. My view was based on a much longer time-frame. Another reader points a finger at me:
You are wrong! Putin and Russia have made a terrible mistake, based on an understanding of their weaknesses:
a shrinking population
a landmass and coastline that cannot be defended
a brain drain that will reduce economic growth and the ability to keep up with technological change in defense technology
a population that got a taste of a good life and is against war
Taking on the task of re-building that which the Russians have destroyed will be unaffordable. So, why are you so pessimistic? The Ukrainians have said that they need 60 HIMARS to kick the ass of the demoralized Russians. The US had at least 410 HIMARS in its arsenal two years ago, so why not ship that relatively small number to complement the 12-16 the US has already sent?
Another looks to the supply of weapons on the Russian side:
Artillery barrels wear out. Russia is running out of them. August won’t be fun for Russian soldiers.
I said that this summer’s fighting will be crucial. What I’m worried about is winter, an economic crisis in Europe, and a stalemate. On the military resources of NATO, this reader quotes me:
“And NATO is busy delivering arms to Ukraine at such speed and volume that its own self-defense supplies are at risk.” This is the sort of facile comment that indicates more editorial oversight is necessary for the weekly blog. The only enemy NATO will face for the foreseeable future is Russia. Russia cannot attack NATO while most of its ground forces are engaged in Ukraine. So for what opponent, exactly, are these “self-defense supplies” necessary?
The only possible scenario where they would be needed in the near future is if Russia settles amicably with Ukraine (so they needn’t keep troops near the Russian-Ukrainian border), then Russia turns around and immediately launches an attack on NATO members. This is not possible — such a redeployment would take at least three to four months (recall how long it took for Russia to deploy its troops in Belorussia), not to mention the time to refit Russia’s decimated forces (years).
If you are thinking of a war with China (which is the US, not NATO), that is an air-and-sea battle. The US has provided nothing to Ukraine that would be used for that type of conflict.
The only other possible flashpoint is Korea, but North Korea is using 1950s-era equipment and could be handled easily by the South Korea military by itself, assuming the North does not use nuclear weapons. If it did, the US would respond in kind, ending the North Korean regime.
The brutal truth is that NATO weapons are being used against Russian weapons — exactly what they were designed for. Unless one is prepared to argue that the Ukrainians are utilizing these weapons much less efficiently than NATO, this is why they have been procured and stockpiled. And in any case, NATO can much more easily replace its weapons than Russia can.
My point was simply that we will have to begin re-arming NATO soon enough, because arms are not limitless. The cost to the West will rise.
Another reader insists there is “one crucial fault with your analysis: Ukraine does NOT need the Donbas or Crimea to be functional”:
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