By John R. Stone
It’s pretty hard to figure out how this mess in Ukraine is going to work out in the long run. The short-term outlook is just plain ugly.
Every day Russian soldiers launch bombs or rockets to destroy more of Ukraine. The object of war is to defeat the enemy. While there have been so called treaties where combatants agree to try to leave civilians above the fray, the real answer to winning quickly is to create such fear among civilians that they will agree to anything to stop the bombing.
In other words, living under a communist regime might be better than being dead.
For other nations sitting on the sidelines the situation is also dangerous. On one hand they want to help the Ukranians put an end to this horrible war. On the other they wonder if the threats of Russian’s Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons is real.
It is the very definition of nuclear blackmail.
So far giving some weapons to the Ukrainians hasn’t been enough to get Putin to pull the nuclear trigger, but as the weapons continue to flow Putin seems to be raising his voice a little louder about his nuclear threat.
So as this war enters its third month it seems no closer to an end.
It is easy for the United States to contribute weapons, intelligence and ammunition. We have little else at risk.
European countries have the greatest risk. They get a substantial portion of their oil and gas from Russia. Some European companies such as Volkswagen have plants in Russia or Ukraine that make parts for companies in Europe and those supply chains have been disrupted.
But as a warning to Europe, the Russian attack on Ukraine follows attacks on Georgia, Chechnya, the takeover of Crimea and threats against Muldova as it appears that Putin wants to reestablish the former Soviet Union that toppled under its own weight 30 years ago. If the Ukrainian invasion succeeds, who will be next?
One wonders why Putin bothers. Over the past 30 years Russia has built trust with the Europeans and the Europeans buy a substantial portion of their natural gas and oil from Russia. That inflow of cash is the major source of revenue for Russia and it has helped Russian catch up with the times. Peace has worked well for Russia.
After the invasion of Ukraine in February a third major gas line to Europe, Nordstream II, was cancelled by Germany. Most European nations are looking elsewhere for oil and natural gas. Russia’s role as a dependable supplier of these commodities is over and Russia will suffer greatly as a result.
It is not clear what Russia wants in total. It seems to want, at the minimum, land for a Russia-controlled access to Crimea that it occupied years ago. Russia has been fighting in eastern Ukraine for years for that access. It is not clear if that fits Ukraine’s desires or not, Ukraine does not recognize the Russia occupation and has been fighting the Russians in east Ukraine for years.
So how does this end? Does Ukraine try to negotiate a deal that allows Russia access along its eastern end to Crimea, and in essence say that Russia owns Crimea and the access points? Would Russia accept that? Would Ukraine accept that? Would that leave Ukraine in an even more vulnerable position in regard to future Russian incursions? Would Russia stop if Ukraine would say it would not join NATO? Or has that point been passed?
Do western nations and perhaps NATO put more pressure on Russia to get it to stop its incursion into Ukraine? How far does that pressure go? Does it mean a no fly zone that Ukraine wants? Does it mean NATO or other western foot soldiers and more advanced war equipment? And what will be the role of China, a Russian ally that isn’t quite ready to sever its ties with the west?
Hopefully some answers come soon before Russia turns Ukraine into a vast wasteland.