Vladimir Poutine declared in 2005 that the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century was not World War I, nor World War II, nor Mao Zedong’s takeover of China, nor the Cold War, all cataclysmic global events which, collectively killed hundreds of millions and further enslaved over a billion. No, in Putin’s worldview, the historic tragedy was the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which liberated some 20 European countries and nearly 300 million of their captive populations from tyranny. Soviet.
Less than three years later, Putin resumed Adolf Hitler’s revanchism after World War I and the Treaty of Versailles reverse what he considered an intolerable chapter in world history. A few months after NATO expressed support in 2008 for Georgia and Ukraine to join, Russia invaded and occupied parts of Georgia.
When the Bush administration and NATO effectively acquiesced, he prepared for his next step in reconstituting the Soviet Union. President Obama in 2009 announced a reset of US-Russian relations and in 2012 promised Putin greater flexibility from the United States. In 2014, Russia responded by invading eastern Ukraine and seizing Crimea. Again, the West has done nothing to significantly reverse or punish Russia’s aggression. Putin has begun preparations for phase 3 of his imperial revival project.
As Russia gathered forces for the next invasion of Ukraine in 2021, Washington with intelligence that provide all of Putin’s moves have just watched this happen. Transfixed, the Biden administration welcomed its accurate predictions but was unwilling to take direct or timely action with NATO to stop the aggression.
Instead, Washington threatened unprecedented economic sanctions, which national security adviser Jake Sullivan said would succeed after the Russian attack not to prevent its expansion, but simply to impose an economic cost on Russia. Biden later said he knew all along that the sanctions never work to deter or coerce Putin.
Meanwhile, Biden continued to deny Ukraine a NATO no-fly zone and withhold the most urgently needed weapons, a policy that originated in the Obama administration and did not was only modestly modified under President Trump.
Ukraine has brilliantly and courageously exploited the limited range of defensive weapons the West has sent, as well as its own locally produced weapons, such as the indigenous Neptune anti-ship missiles which, with the help of US intelligence , has sunk Black Sea Flagship in Russia.
Nevertheless, despite Ukraine’s spectacular success in protecting the capital Kyiv and in countering Russian offensives elsewhere, the disparity in weapons and Russia’s overwhelming advantage in force numbers are taking their toll and maintaining the Russia’s strategic advantage.
Although a costly victory, Russia eventually captured the port city of Mariupol and maintained its blockade of the Black Sea. It continues to make gradual but steady gains in the Donbass region, threatening a broad encirclement of Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky repeatedly calls for heavier, longer-range systems that would allow Ukraine to draw Russian forces away from cities and military assets. But the Biden administration adheres to its policy of withholding weapons which Putin might find provocative when, of course, all forms of Western aid, including rhetorical and moral support, are anathema to Putin and incur his rage. and his Hitlerite resentment.
As Putin’s forces advance inexorably into eastern Ukraine, Washington and some other NATO capitals, such as Berlin, Paris and Rome, are wasting precious time and energy obsessing over the precise level of military support they can provide to prevent both the collapse of Ukraine and the defeat and humiliation of Russia. The arms calibration is meant to create a stalemate that will tempt both sides to compromise and offer Putin a face-saving exit ramp.
Henry Kissinger, the ultimate national security realist, defended accommodating some say, appeasing Putin in virtual remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week.
Negotiations must begin within the next two months before they create upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante, he said, i.e. the respective territorial control that existed just before the invasion of Russian forces on February 24, but not before the Russian invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014. What cannot be reduced to the situation before the Russian invasions, of course, are the thousands of Ukrainian lives lost and ruined, or cities and historical places destroyed.
Kissinger added this warning: To continue the war beyond this point would not be a matter of freedom for Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself. Apparently he thinks Ukraine’s freedom is divisible and only applies to areas not controlled by Russia on February 24.
Moreover, Ukraine has no intention or need to attack Russia itself, just uninvited Russians in Ukraine. And, as with Hitler, any territorial concession would simply be a pause in the aggressors’ pursuit of his master plan. Presumably, part of Kissingers’ negotiating incentives would be the permanent exclusion of Ukraine, Georgia and any other country aspiring to NATO membership. But Putin has indicated he wants to see NATO return to the security situation of 1997.
Kissinger demonstrated his negotiating skills before, when he and Communist China’s first premier, Zhou Enlai, forged the Shanghai press release, whose clever formulation of Taiwan’s status has emboldened China and plagued the West ever since and brought the Sino-Taiwanese and Sino-American conflicts ever closer. Kissinger spent the next five decades convincing subsequent U.S. administrations to abide by an interpretation of the arrangement most favorable to Beijing, such as in his warning to Taiwan in 2007 that China would not await its surrender indefinitely. to the communist regime.
Kissinger also won the Nobel Peace Prize for managing the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, which encouraged Congress’ termination of U.S. funding and left the South Vietnamese ally of the Americas defenseless against the massive final assault from the North. -Vietnam, and not the graceful exit for which he was ready to give up Taiwan sovereignty. . Soviet-American detente also proved to be a mirage as Moscow pushed its advantage in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
Biden would be well advised to instead heed the urgings of the heroic Ukrainian President Zelensky, who is at the forefront of the titanic struggle between freedom and autocracy that Biden has described. This would be very useful to Washington for the next campaign in this competition between the freedom and security of Taiwan against the hostile intentions of China under Xi Jinping, Putin limitless strategic partner to oppose the liberal international order.
Joseph Bosco was China Country Director for the Secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and Asia-Pacific Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief from 2009 to 2010. He served in the Pentagon when Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia and was involved in the Department of Defense. discussions on the American response. Follow him on Twitter @BoscoJosephA.
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