The relatively short but bloody war in Ukraine is entering its fourth stage. In the first, Russia tried to overthrow Vladimir Zelensky’s government and take the country into its arms in a three-day campaign; second, he tried to conquer Ukraine or at least its eastern half, including the capital Kiev, with armored attacks; third, Russia, defeated in the north, withdrew its shattered forces, gathering in the southeast and south to occupy these parts of Ukraine. Now begins the fourth and perhaps decisive stage.
For those of us born after World War II, this is the most productive war of our lives. The future of Europe’s stability and prosperity is its result. If Ukraine can maintain its freedom and territorial integrity, a reduced Russia will be restrained; If it fails, the possibility of war between NATO and Russia, as well as the prospect of Russian intervention in other territories in its western and southern peripheries, increases. Russia’s victory would encourage China to observe calmly and appreciate the West’s courage and military potential; Russia’s defeat would cause caution in Beijing. Russia’s brutality and completely unfounded aggression, combined with evil and ridiculous lies, endangered the rest of the global order and norms of interstate conduct. If such behavior leads to humiliation on the battlefield and economic chaos in the home, those norms can be re-established to some extent; If Vladimir Putin’s government gets rid of this, it will take a generation or more to restore them.
There will be enough time for criticism. Germany has long claimed to be extending a hand of peace to Russia, when in fact it preferred to pursue a policy based on greed and naivety. He was not alone in deception and hypocrisy. For more than a decade, the American leadership has proved completely incompetent with the red lines that show indifference and indifference to the division of peoples in Europe and the smoothing of cities in Syria and the gasification of civilians. Bragging about leadership from behind can now be especially condemned, as we see what a world without American leadership looks like.
In the years to come, guilty politicians will try to excuse these nonsense, and historians will acidically break them down. The important thing now is to judge the present moment correctly. And here again, the West is facing potential failure. Those who have been talking about the stagnation on the battlefield, perhaps for many years, are probably making as much of a mistake as they did two months ago when they rejected the possibility of effective resistance from Ukraine. A decisive action is urgently needed to strike a balance between costly success and disaster.
In such the most violent confrontations, the armies are engaged in a kind of competitive collapse, and victory goes to a side that can last longer. The Ukrainians kept their losses and depletion as well-protected as necessary, but they were still superior to the guns and were forced to feel tense as they saw civilians killed and tortured. As the battle shifts to open areas where guerrilla tactics and anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles will no longer be effective, they face frightening, even impossible, odds. They are as enthusiastic as soldiers, but also creative tactics. But they are not supermen, and they need everything that Western arsenals can provide them with.
The Russian army, which appears to be incompetent in tactics, unimaginative in operational design, incompetent in strategy and incompetent in basic logistics and maintenance, is only good at two things: vomiting large amounts of firepower and brutally hitting civilians. It was really bloody. If, as it seems reasonable, it has lost a quarter or more of its forces involved in this war (dead, wounded, missing and arrested), it may be on the verge of collapse. Reports from the battlefield show indicators: abandoned equipment, officers killed by their own men, desperate attempts to drag young people into military service, and preventing units from firing on fugitives. The Russian military has not set up air controls. Russia has sent three-quarters of its ground troops to Ukraine, where they have been expelled from one theater, severely controlled by others, and now have no real resources to recruit.
So why the expected escalation of war in the east and south? What explains the Russian supreme command’s desperate dice? Neither Putin, nor his top advisers, nor his high-ranking commanders have a clear picture of the situation on the ground. They know they have been humiliated, but they do not feel the battlefield. As stewards of servicemen who are unable to take care of their wounded and leave the dead, they do not care about the human cost they pay. In a system based on lies and corruption, they receive or transmit false optimistic information. In an attempt to raise awareness of the truth in the West, they are now falling victim to their own lies.
Thus, if Putin encounters a well-equipped Ukrainian enemy, he will order attacks that could effectively destroy his army. The task facing the West is to ensure that this is its destiny.
Not surprisingly, Europeans are far from unanimous in their reactions: the Green Party’s foreign minister inside Germany is determined; the chancellor is unstable; some members of his party are cowards. Britain is ambitious. While Poland and the Baltic states are showing positive heroism, Hungary, Austria and several other countries are bilateral or worse.
The United States is doing the right thing. He presented many portable missiles, as well as drones and non-lethal equipment. It has facilitated the transfer of heavier equipment, such as the Slovak S-300 surface-to-air missiles, which are loaded with Patriot systems. President Joe Biden and some of his key aides have rightly argued for Ukraine’s right to live freely within its legal borders. But on other issues, America has failed.
The war metronome sounds very slow in Washington. The administration did not use Ukraine’s unanimous support in Congress – the miracle of bipartisanship in this controversial period of American policy – to demand larger sums (tens of billions of dollars) for the Ukrainian army. He has been slow to acquire heavier weapons, which he knows Ukraine needs. His attention is focused on the domestic agenda, which was in trouble before the war and has now lost its significance. It seems that high-level leaders are not inclined to remove bureaucratic obstacles and cut bureaucracy. It feels like a normal job at the Pentagon. Some Russian banks have been sanctioned, while others have not. Transnational corporations have not yet faced a simple ultimatum: You can do business in the United States or Russia, but not in both.
The United States failed to carry out many symbolic actions during the war. If British Prime Minister Boris Johnson can visit Kiev (as well as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other heads of state and government), Secretary of State Anthony Blinken or Vice President Kamala Harris may also visit. If other countries can reopen their embassies in Ukraine, so can the United States, which should never close its embassies. Instead of treating Zelensky’s address to Congress as a single event, the United States must find ways to celebrate his and his people’s courage on a daily basis and to constantly remind the American people of what is at stake here. Part of the wartime leadership is the theater, and the leadership must accept that. It takes a little Shakespeare at the moment Henry Vbut what was on display was Beckett’s excess Godotu is waiting.
The United States is reluctant to take any action because of its self-limiting beliefs about Russia’s behavior. It must be acknowledged that the Ukrainians are now world experts in the fight against the Russians, not us. With their skills and success, they have proven that they can do more than we give them credit. Therefore, instead of asking whether they need fixed-wing aircraft or whether they can use Western military equipment, the United States should make a mistake on the side of generosity. If the American experience is needed, it can be provided without the direct involvement of the United States in the war. Before Pearl Harbor, a group of American Volunteers, known as the Flying Tigers, was sent to China to fly P-40 fighters against the Japanese Air Force. The group did so with the support of the US government. A similar thing can be done in Ukraine, if there is a will.
If the Soviet Union could send thousands of advisers to North Vietnam in the middle of the Vietnam War without causing a nuclear conflict, the United States could deploy its advisers to Western Ukraine, or at least Poland, to train Ukrainian troops. Instead, we are sending Ukrainian troops to Biloxi, Mississippi, to learn how to fly a Switchblade drone from the Pentagon’s desk with a Zoom call. It would be better to put salsa on their shoulders in a muddy field closer to their homeland.
The war could get worse. If the Russians use chemical weapons, the United States must reconsider its refusal to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The Obama administration, which has served many veterans in the White House, failed when it announced a red line on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and then distanced itself from it. Ukrainians and Syrians have ruthlessly retaliated. But this does not consider it wise or moral not to act here under the guise of a cowardly sequence. The use of chemical weapons leads to the genocidal massacre of civilians. If this happens, the free world must stop.
What the United States and its allies are doing in the next few weeks depends more on what the American people think. Evidence shows that if the Russian army is met by well-equipped Ukrainian forces, it can be completely destroyed and defeated. After this war, Russia itself will most likely remain a paranoid and isolated dictatorship, and even if its stupidity makes it a third-class power, it can be defended. But war is war, and the future is always uncertain. What is clear now is that inadequate support for Ukraine will have dire consequences, not only for that hero and the suffering people.