George F. Kennan, the brilliant diplomat who invented and piloted the strategy of “containment” that defeated the Soviet Union without a world war, wrote that “War has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it.”
That’s just what is happening now in Ukraine.
When Russia first invaded Ukraine, it was both right and vitally necessary that we send arms and money to the people and government there.
If Russia had succeeded in conquering Ukraine, it would have opened the door to Moscow’s territorial expansion throughout Eastern Europe.
The domino theory — so discredited in Vietnam — would have had great applicability in Ukraine. First Ukraine might fall, then Moldova, then the Baltic states, and, then Poland.
Russia had to be stopped and it was worth every dime and every shell to do it. The Red Army had to be defeated in battle. Thank the Lord that the people of Ukraine had the courage, the clarity, and the leadership to repel the Russian attack.
We like to say that NATO is arming Ukraine, but the reality is that 90% of the military aid and half the financial aid to Kiev comes from the US. We should be very, very proud that we helped to beat the Red Army.
But now, the war has morphed from a struggle to stop Russia from conquering Ukraine into a battle for three provinces: Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea (which Russia conquered in 2014). Together, these areas have a population of about 4.5 million people, ten percent of the 44 million people in Ukraine.
Ethnically, Crimea is 58% Russian, Luhansk is half Russian and Donetsk is one-third Russian. At most, the Russian Army controls 18% of Ukraine according to most estimates.
The rationale for a long, bloody, costly war for Ukraine was plain enough. But the rationale for continuing the fight for three provinces is far from clear when at least 82% of Ukraine is free.
The momentum of war, of which Kennan speaks, makes it impossible for a democratically elected president like Zelenskyy to settle the conflict as long as Russian troops occupy even ten percent of Ukraine. He would lose credibility were he to agree to partition of his country.
But the United States does not have to stand with him to the ultimate extreme. We have saved Ukraine and now we should keep our money and weapons for ourselves and press Kiev to settle with Moscow.
If Russia proves intransigent and wants to continue fighting, we have no choice but to keep up the war and keep supplying Ukraine with weapons, but if a political solution is possible based on whose troops occupy what portion of Ukraine, we should encourage it and use our leverage as the top donor to move it along.
Some will argue that we would be rewarding Russian aggression by giving them some territory. But this is the real world. And we are not committed to draining our own treasury and weapons stockpiles indefinitely, especially to defend three provinces when 80% of Ukraine is no longer at risk.
The risks of a proxy war with Russia are very great and we are tempting fate by giving Ukraine enough aid to win but not enough to leave Russia with no other choice but to use nuclear weapons to save face.
Putin is dangerous when cornered and why would we see how far we could go?
The U.S. has won this war and it’s time to declare victory and go home.
Our national patience with war, even when our troops are not directly at risk, is limited. We have grown wary and weary of endless wars.
Let’s not get mired in another one. 80% of a loaf should be good enough for Ukraine.
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