Given the failure of other countries to come to the collective self-defense of Ukraine following the Russian invasion, it appears that the Russian military through the commission of war crimes in destroying cities, on the scale of Grozny and Aleppo, will gain military control of the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, including Kviv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Odessa.
It is time for the civilized countries of the world, including NATO countries, to either step up to the plate and use force to slow the advance of Russian forces in Ukraine, or to accept the likelihood of a Russian military victory.
If they are unwilling to act to prevent a Russian victory, they should support any potential efforts by the Zelinsky government to negotiate a cease-fire and withdrawal of Russian troops in exchange for concessions, including a commitment not to seek NATO membership and not to station foreign troops or weapons on Ukrainian soil, for some negotiated period of time.
Any negotiations in this regard would be totally different from the low-level negotiations near the Belarus border, currently underway, which are focused on establishing “humanitarian corridors” out of besieged cities, and local “ceasefires” to enable the inhabitants to flee. Such agreements are straight out of Russia’s Syrian playbook, where they were used to assuage international pressure while massive assaults on cities like Aleppo continued.
This would be a horrible outcome, but one better than the slaughter of 100,000 or 200,000 Ukrainians and the destruction of their major cities, as occurred in Grozny and Aleppo.
What would be unacceptable and morally repugnant, however, would be for countries like the U.S. and NATO countries to cheer on the Ukrainians, while sitting on the sidelines and watching the slaughter, without committing to the use of force to slow Russian advances and acts of barbarism against civilian populations.
Or even adopting an oil and gas embargo out of fear of higher prices at the gas pump.
The risk of nuclear escalation is real, but surely there are many steps between an initial use of force in collective self-defense and World War III. Our experts have been studying this and our nuclear doctrine has been evolving to deal with this challenge for the last 70 years.
What has been striking is the degree to which Biden and U.S. officials have responded to the words “use of force” by automatically exclaiming “World War III”, and cutting off the discussion.
We need to have much more public discussion and analysis of the many different decision points on the ladder between the initial use of force and escalation to all-out nuclear war–“World War III” as the Russians call it.
Surely there are more options than capitulation whenever Russia makes nuclear threats. While Article 5 of the NATO Treaty would require all members to respond to an attack on any one country, the risks of escalation to World War III involved in responding to such an attack by the use of force would be no different than the risks involved in the Ukraine case.
The choices described above are hard choices, both for the West and for the Zelinsky government.
The Trenchant Observer