Thoughts on Ukraine

The great, indeed grave, danger in Ukraine is that our politicians will talk themselves into trying to join the fight. Reportedly NATO has been cleared to execute war plans at the discretion of the Supreme Allied Commander - Europe, who is a fighter pilot by training rather than a maneuver warfare veteran. The war as it is unfolding is a classic maneuver war, with pinning forces and attempted envelopments, plus a flanking maneuver that has already seized the airport at the Ukrainian capital. It is too late now to do anything of value except contain the war to Ukraine if possible. 

As I said in January, the West signaled very strongly that Ukraine would be left to the wolves. Changing our minds now, when we are out of position, would lead to a widening war -- the example I used was the Korean conflict, but it might be far worse. The time to move the forces into place that would have been necessary to deter this war is past. The only thing to do now is to try to keep the war from spreading, and start laying the groundwork for a future strategy. 

Putin's plan initially seems bolder than my estimate, which assumed he would try only to seize the Russian-majority regions in the east. That may still be his actual plan; claiming that he intends to seize the whole and "demilitarize" it gives him a strong opening negotiation position should he care to bid for having sanctions dropped in return for letting the rest of the country go. Holding the whole thing would be expensive, and insurgency is very likely especially in the west.

In December of last year I suggested raising that cost in Ukraine and Taiwan by urging the adoption of a version of the Second Amendment. I notice that Ukraine has, this morning, granted all citizens the right to bear arms. Better late than never, but this would have been more effective two months ago when there was still time to distribute arms to the people (and ammunition), and to conduct training in their use and maintenance. 

There are only long-term answers that are good answers now. We need to do the following:

1) Revisit energy policy, with an eye on nuclearization here at home. We should restore the last administration's all-in approach to production in the meantime, but electrification with clean nuclear power -- the stuff is way cleaner now than in the old days, and actually much cleaner than coal -- would provide us with energy independence in the long term.

2) We need all-new leadership. The political leadership must be replaced, but that is insufficient. The bureaucracies need to be scalped at least: every flag officer should be cashiered for going along with the degradation of our armed forces into an Army that can't execute a withdrawal maneuver without chaos and a Navy that can't paint its ships or prevent collisions or put out fires on them. Some of the bureaucracies should be entirely dissolved and not replaced; others, like State, should be replaced throughout. We need people who understand what national security is actually about, which is not trying to implement 'the successor ideology.' It is preparing for war, and using that strength to prevent war.

3) The United Nations should dissolve in disgrace like the League of Nations before it, and for the same reason: utter failure to perform its claimed mission of preventing war. It should be replaced with nothing. Instead we should reinforce alliance networks where we need to deter predatory powers. (This may include NATO-ally Turkey, which is spending today conducting mock air raids on Greece -- as China is, today, on Taiwan.)

Those are all long-term steps, and we cannot get started on any of them until next year -- after the election seats a partially-new government. So, for now, there's nothing to do but let the wolves take the sacrificial lambs. It may be possible to interfere with their digestion by supporting armed populations and covertly supporting insurgencies, but it is not now possible to stop Russia from eating as much of Ukraine as it decides it really wants to do.


Christopher B said...

I expected Putin would take the win of securing Donbass and Crimea, and disrupting Ukraine, without further invasion. If he's going all in, this and this from Peter Zeihan would tend to indicate that he's probably going to the Baltics next. The first article from October 2015 notes Putin had three of the Gaps after grabbing Crimea, and he's now up to six per the second. The western border of Ukraine gets one and half more, with the Baltics being the next one if he figures that having Ukraine's portion of the Polish Gap is enough. Otherwise Poland is on the list, too.

And Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are all part of NATO now.

Grim said...

Romania, too.

David Foster said...

We should definitely move forward on nuclear, and the new generation of modular reactors...largely factor-built rather the assembled on site...offers the possibility of doing this faster and in a more capital-efficient way that the previous approach. See for example this product from the GE-Hitachi joint venture:

But still, it will take time, and the only solution presently available is to un-handcuff natural gas and oil.

Problem is, we have a Baptists and Bootleggers problem: On the one hand, those for whom Climate Change has become a religion, and on the other, those planning to make a lot of $$$ from wind and solar.

Elise said...

A question: Someone said today that he wished there was a publication/source, preferably hard-copy but online if necessary, that actually explains things like the situation in the Ukraine. He is tired of getting bits and pieces and quick hits and half-stories from his news feeds. So is there someone/something he can read regularly to stay up to date on foreign policy/international situations? (Besides Grim, of course - I'll send him links to the Ukraine posts here.)

David Foster said...

From 2009--Renewable Energy: Our Downfall?

Grim said...

There’s a substack called the Bismarck Cables that I think provides a good high level summary.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"There are only long-term answers that are good answers now."

The best line of the post, because it is a stark reminder that this is always true, but we get caught up in this week. It puts me in mind of the sentiment from someone in the mid-20th C (Lewis? Tolkien? Chesterton?), while in the fears of horrifying world wars, nonetheless making the general point that reflection for an hour tended to point us to solutions that took a year, reflection for a week brought decade-long approaches to mind, and a year's thought caused us to think in terms of centuries.

I wonder about that when I think about radical Biblical approaches that do not even have any hope of succeeding except in the longest of runs.

On the other hand, it is perhaps best not to try and solve what is beyond us. As Gandalf said “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

Grim said...

It is always wise to remember Tolkien in difficult hours.

Elise said...

Thanks, Grim - I'll pass that along.

Texan99 said...

It's like the old saw that the best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago. It's still a good time today and tomorrow.