I don’t get bogged down in the operational and tactical details of the Russia-Ukraine War. I don’t know which side is winning or allegedly winning, or which side is best prepared to launch a spring offensive, or which weapons will allegedly turn the tide (likely answer: none). In my view, both sides are losing, especially Ukraine since the war is being fought on their turf. Each side has suffered well over 100,000 killed. Russia has captured territory; whether they can keep it remains to be seen.
1. Does Ukraine truly seek to retake Crimea from Russia? If so, how much are the U.S. and NATO prepared to assist in this? Assuming Ukraine can launch such an offensive, how might Russia respond? Is the nuclear option on the table for Putin if Crimea is invaded? Could war in Crimea escalate to World War III?
2. If the US doesn’t like China’s peace plan to end the war, where is the US peace plan? Does the US even have one?
3. If peace talks can’t proceed until Russia withdraws all its forces from Ukraine, doesn’t that mean they’ll be no peace talks without a total military victory by Ukraine? Aren’t we talking about a prolonged and even more murderous war for both sides?
4. Why is it that the West sees peace talks as weakness? Ukraine has done better than expected in battle; can’t Ukrainians negotiate from a position of strength?
5. Diplomats like to say that no one wants war, but that simply isn’t true. Plenty of people make lots of money from war. The longer the war lasts, the more money they’ll make.
6. The US has benefited geopolitically from the weakening of Russia. Economically too with the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines. That doesn’t delegitimize efforts to aid Ukraine in this war, but it does make you seriously question US motives and intent.
7. Observers have noted inept tactics by Russian forces; at the same time, they call for higher US and NATO spending due to Russia’s dangerous military. Doesn’t Russia’s mediocre performance suggest deliberate threat inflation here? Couldn’t US and NATO military spending be sinking instead of surging?
8. Observers suggest Ukraine is an “aspiring” democracy. Restrictions to free press, high rates of corruption, and similar issues suggest Ukraine’s democratic aspirations are already victims of this war. Since war is the enemy of democracy, it’s unlikely Ukraine’s “aspirations” will survive if this war continues without end.
9. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was illegal, immoral, and wrong. But that doesn’t mean it was “unprovoked.”
10. Are wars best ended by sending expensive and advanced weaponry to the battlefront?
11. To the claim that reducing US and NATO weapons shipments while promoting negotiation would “embolden” Putin and Russia: If it did and does, just resume the shipments while denouncing Putin for reneging on peace talks.
12. Putin doesn’t want peace; he’s “worse than Hitler.” That claim is more than misleading. If the war is going poorly for Russia, Putin may calculate that a negotiated peace would be better for him in the long run than more killing, especially if the Ukraine boosters are correct about the formidable nature of Ukraine’s planned spring offensive.
13. A US policy decision to work for a negotiated truce and peace could conceivably lead to an end to fighting. That truce/peace could be couched in terms of avoiding a wider war that could escalate to nuclear weapons, while still upholding Ukraine’s right to exist and to pursue its own form of government. Of course, the devil would be in the details with respect to the terms of the truce/treaty. Why isn’t the US working to advance this?
14. Strictly for Americans: What vital national interest does the US have in providing more than $110 billion in aid, and counting, to Ukraine? How are we supporting and defending the US Constitution in Ukraine? Ukraine is not a NATO member. The US has no formal alliance with Ukraine. Ukrainian democracy is (at best) imperfect. Continued support of Ukraine runs the risk of a wider, more calamitous, war. Certainly, Americans can legitimately ask why Ukraine has received $110 billion in one year while US states continue to be starved of funds for the homeless, the mentally ill, education, and other worthy social causes within the US itself.
15. Strictly for Americans: In 2023, is the US to send another $110 billion to Ukraine? How about in 2024? Until Ukraine “wins”? What if the war lasts for five years? Ten years?
In raising these questions and making these points, I seek to promote an approach that lessens the danger of a wider war while saving lives on both sides. Sadly, challenging official US policy often leads to accusations of spouting Kremlin talking points. Which makes me wonder: Is democracy even more tenuous and illusory in the US than it is in Ukraine and Russia? We know Russia is a corrupt dictatorship controlled by Putin. Are we willing to see clearly how corrupt the US government is and how little say the American people have in matters of state?
Humanity wins when wars end. I’m for humanity. I sincerely hope Russians and Ukrainians stop killing each other, and I believe my country should be doing everything in its power to put a stop to this war. That doesn’t mean freezing it so that Putin can allegedly “win.” It means helping to broker a settlement amenable to both sides.
Or should I prefer yet more killing with yet greater chances of dangerous escalation?
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at email@example.com. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.