Ukraine: The Tipping Point

It’s been three weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine and the Western world is wondering: “How can we bring this horrible war to an end and spare the lives of millions of innocent Ukrainians?”  We’re searching for a tipping point; searching for a way out.

Here are several factors to consider:

1.Vladimir Putin: The Russian dictator is blocking a reasonable end to the conflict.  To say the least, Putin has a warped worldview: he invaded Ukraine with the intention to reassemble “Russkiy Mir” (Russian World); to unite all Russian-speaking people.  Building upon this perspective, Putin does not consider Ukraine to be a separate part of Russia and plans to annex it.

Experts believe that Putin intends to seize the four largest Ukrainian cities: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and Lviv.  If he is successful, Putin will install Russian puppet mayors, hold mock elections, and declare that Ukrainians have voted to rejoin Russia.

Putin does not care how many civilians he kills in order to achieve his objective.

Putin is the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler.

2. Incrementalism: On March 12th, I listened to a ZOOM briefing on Ukraine (https://rdi.org/situation-report-from-the-ukrainian-foreign-minister/ ) featuring Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, renown Russian dissident Garry Kasparov, national security expert USA Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle, and individuals from the Ukrainian front lines.

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman (retired) is the former Director for European Affairs for the US National Security council; a naturalized US citizen, Vindman was born in Kyiv. He opined that what is required to stop Putin is a massive NATO response, certainly providing aircraft to Ukraine, and possibly declaring a “no-fly” zone.  He reminded viewers that Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and for the next 27 months — until December 11, 1941 — the US policy was “incrementalism.” While the US did provide some support to Europe, it was woefully inadequate; Hitler rampaged across the continent and killed millions of innocents.  Colonel Vindman said, in effect, that Putin is Hitler and will not be deterred by anything short of a massive military response.  Vindman warned that unless we do this, Putin will kill millions of Ukrainians.  (Ukraine has a population of 44 million.)

At the ZOOM briefing, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asked the United States to provide four forms of assistance: sanctions on Russia, humanitarian assistance, conventional arms (including anti-tank weapons), and planes.

3.Next Steps: The official US position is that we will provide the first three forms of assistance requested by Foreign Minister Kuleba.  But not planes from NATO countries.

a. We should provide Ukraine with better surface-to-air missiles.  Indications are that we are doing this.

b. NATO teams should jam Russian communications.  We seem to be doing this.

c. We should provide Ukraine with aircraft via non-NATO countries, such as Moldava and “Kurdistan.”  (Technically, Kurdistan is not a country.)

d. As proposed by Evelyn Farkas in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/03/11/ukraine-no-fly-escalation-humanitarian/) NATO should insist on humanitarian no-fly zones: “These would build on the agreements between Ukraine and Russia to create safe corridors allowing civilians to leave the sites of battles. Russia would have to allow NATO planes to ensure that no attacks occurred in these corridors. (That no attacks will occur is something Russia has already pledged.) Given its mutual nature and limited goal, such a plan would not require the destruction of Russian radars and antiaircraft weaponry on the ground. NATO would make explicitly clear that it intends no attacks unless civilians are imperiled.”

e. The West should strengthen economic sanctions and cut off all oil purchases from Russia; in essence, blockade the Russian economy.

f. The US should cease all normal diplomatic relations with Russia.  (By the way,  the Renew Democracy Initiative (https://fight4ukraine.com ) rates the US sanctions as a C-.)

4.Drawing a Red Line: At the beginning of World War Ii, the United States failed to draw a red line with Hitler.  We watched as he invaded Poland and then steadily moved across Europe.  We must draw a red line with Putin and declare: “If you do this, we will declare a ‘no-fly’ zone over Ukraine and enforce it with NATO planes.”

a. Putin must not be allowed to use biological or chemical weapons.

b. Russian forces must maintain captured Ukrainian nuclear power plants in a way that does not produces dangerous radiation.  If they destroy the power plants, that constitutes crossing the red line,

c. Putin must permit stable humanitarian-relief corridors.  There has to be a way to evacuate civilians and to provide humanitarian aid.

d. Obviously, Russian forces must not enter any NATO nation.

5. The Role of China: Hu Wei, a distinguished Chinese political scientist, (https://uscnpm.org/2022/03/12/hu-wei-russia-ukraine-war-china-choice/ ) argues that China must intervene on the side of the West (United States and Nato) and force Russia to leave Ukraine: “China should avoid playing both sides in the same boat, give up being neutral, and choose the mainstream position in the world.,, In some cases, apparent neutrality is a sensible choice, but it does not apply to this war, where China has nothing to gain. Given that China has always advocated respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, it can avoid further isolation only by standing with the majority of the countries in the world.”  President Biden is taking to Chinese Premier Xi bout chin’s role.

Summary: Perhaps a negotiated settlement is possible, but it appears more likely that we’ve entered into a war of attrition, where Russian forces will remain in Ukraine until they run out of energy.  This could take months.  In the meantime, the United States should continue to provide all forms of assistance.  And, NATO with the aid of China, should demand humanitarian-relief corridors.