Questions To Ask in the Russia-Ukraine War

Burnishing My Kremlin Talking Points?

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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 Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

15 thoughts on “Questions To Ask in the Russia-Ukraine War”

  1. Another worthless rant or, rather, a collection of platitudes and a list of inane questions. Like the concluding one: “Should I prefer yet more killing with yet greater chances of dangerous escalation?” Well, should you, Mister? And who cares if you should or should not. You have nothing to say, so say nothing.

    And this: “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was illegal, immoral, and wrong. But that doesn’t mean it was “unprovoked.” No kidding. True, it was provoked, but I could argue more persuasively that Putin’s invasion was legal, moral and right.

  2. William J. Astore should read the little book, “How the West Brought War to Ukraine” by Benjamin Abelow. There is a history of facts to be told regarding the build up to the Ukraine War, and it is pretty ugly. Unfortunately most people have been duped into thinking that it is all Russia’s fault and that Putin is an ogre.

    1. At the end of WWII, General Patton and other officers wanted to attack the Soviet Union while it was “weak”. I believe he was murdered to prevent that idea from spreading. I further believe that the idea to eliminate the influence of the Soviet Union can be dated to that moment. We have wanted this war real war a long, long time.

  3. You get accused of spreading Kremlin talking points because that’s exactly what you’re doing here. The Ukrainians DON’T BLOODY WELL WANT TO BE RUSSIAN. As long as they want to fight we should help them. The only way to secure real peace is to kill every single fascist. Leaving even one fascist alive is a recipe for destruction of the world.

    1. This is really quite stupid and completely irrational: you want Ukrainians to fight with Western weapons and support. But Ukraine has absolutely no chance to defeat Russia, which is about 10 times more powerful than Ukraine. So far Russia for good reasons has refrained from unleashing its real power. And she doesn’t have to. The Ukrainians are being methodically slaughtered, And they will continue to be as long as they are suicidal enough to want to fight.

      It’s like encouraging a Yorkshire terrier to fight a wolf. Or, better yet, a bear. (Since, as you know, the bear is an adequate symbol of Russia’s power.) Please, woman, try to think for a change.

      1. I’m somewhat surprised that after 13 months of failure there are still people pushing and/or falling for the “oh, the Russians MEANT to do that” line.

        1. You are “surprised” because you don’t understand what is happening in Ukraine. You are just another confused, clueless, incurably arrogant, russophobic American.

          Maybe, I could help: It’s not Ukraine, it’s Russia that has taken control of 20 percent of the enemy’s land. (It also happens to be the best land in what used to be Ukraine. Russia couldn’t care less about western Ukraine, for example.) Did you get this? And btw, the percentage is increasing daily in Russia’s favor.

          For every Russian soldier killed, Russia on the average kills about 5 or more Ukrainians. Since Russia has at least 3 times more people than Ukraine, what would you think is going to happen eventually? Any idea?

          As I said before a few times, Russia has barely used its full military potential yet. What do you think will happen when Russia unleashes, for example, its unstoppable Kinzhal and Zircon hypersonic missiles? Any idea here?

          I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by these ponderings. Nuf sed. Good luck.

          1. It’s possible that I’m confused, clueless, or incurably arrogant. I am not, however, “russophobic.” I have no special preferences for or against any particular evil empire or satrapy thereof. If I saw Biden, Zelenskyy, and Putin all rolling around in the street on fire, I wouldn’t piss on any of them to put it out.

            The window for Russian “victory” outside Donetsk/Luhansk closed nearly a year ago — and they still haven’t even secured Donetsk/Luhansk, where they were supposedly going to be greeted with birthday cakes and red carpets. That’s just the reality of the situation.

    2. You go right ahead and help the Ukrainians fight, Karen. Pick up your rifle and head out to Ukraine. And pay your own way. Don’t drag the rest of us into your idiotic plan to kill every fascist 5,000 miles away.

  4. “while still upholding Ukraine’s right to exist and to pursue its own form of government.” Fine and dandy, but leave the Russian speaking Ukraine citizens in the Donbas and Crimea alone to pursue their own wishes; #1 to be a part of Russia as per the referendums.

  5. March 28, 2023 Anti-war Protests in Deutschland and the Need to Change Course on Kiev or a continent and a country that has already borne the brunt of fascism, providing arms to Ukraine lacks wisdom and hints at strategic implosion.

    Protests across Germany against weapons supplies to the Kiev regime reveal an important and strategically significant point that should not sidelined by those who continue to hold Russia solely responsible.

    1. I hope the protests spread to the rest of the world. People should protest at government buildings and military bases.

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