Ukraine War, May 23; 2022: Mitt Romney–“We Must Prepare for Putin’s Worst Weapons”; Anne Applebaum dissects the illusion of an off-ramp for Putin; María R. Sahuquillo reports on the fighting

Developing. We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) Mitt Romney, “We Must Prepare for Putin’s Worst Weapons,” New York Times, May 21, 2022.;

2) Anne Applebaum, “The War Won’t End Until Putin Loses; Offering the Russian president a face-saving compromise will only enable future aggression,” The Atlantic, May 23, 2022 (5:00 a.m. ET).

3) María R. Sahuquillo (Ruska Lozova,Ucrania), “No hay paz para los pueblos de Járkov recuperados de manos rusas; Las localidades cercanas a la segunda ciudad de Ucrania, cercanas a la frontera con el país invasor, siguen sufriendo tras expulsar a las tropas de Putin por estar en segunda línea del frente,” El País, el 23 de mayo 2022 (05:40 CEST).

María R. Sahuquillo continues to provide extraordinary reporting from the front lines. Her war reporting stands out above the rest, providing both the human and the strategic context of the fighting.

Her stories are well worth using Google Translate to render them in English.

translate.google.com

Interesting Reads

4) Jeremy Cliffe, “Europe’s new Iron Lady: Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas; The Baltic leader has become the EU’s strongest advocate for an uncompromising response to Russia,” The New Statesman, May 11, 2022

Commentary

Anne Applebaum on the dangerous illusion of an off-ramp for Putin

Anne Applebaum dissects the assumptions underlying the dangerous illusion of finding an off -ramp for Putin so he will stop his war against Ukraine.

She writes,

The first assumption is that Russia’s president wants to end the war, that he needs an off-ramp, and that he is actually searching for a way to save face and to avoid, in French President Emmanuel Macron’s words, further “humiliation.”

The second assumption made by those advocating off-ramps is that Russia, even if it were to begin negotiating, would stick to the agreements it signed.

The third assumption is that this Ukrainian government, or any Ukrainian government, is politically able to swap territory for peace.

Her conclusion is stark:

Although saying so is considered undiplomatic, the American administration clearly knows that the defeat, sidelining, or removal of Putin is the only outcome that offers any long-term stability in Ukraine and the rest of Europe.

Any cease-fire that allows Putin to experience any kind of victory will be inherently unstable, because it will encourage him to try again. Victory in Crimea did not satisfy the Kremlin. Victory in Kherson will not satisfy the Kremlin either.

Mitt Romney, Joe Biden, and leveling with the American people about vwhat lies ahead

Hindsight is 20/20, or at least 20/30.

How I wish Mitt Romney had won the presidential race in 2012. He understood the threat Putin and Russia represented.

If he’d won, we would have had a strong foreign policy. Putin might not have invaded Ukraine in 2014, or if he had he would have met a robust response from the United States.  Not  Barack Obama’s weak response–a slap on the wrist for the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and a refusal to supply “lethal” military aid to Ukraine. Obama even resisted calling the subsequent Russian invasion of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine an “invasion”, preferring the term “incursion” instead.

In a war, it’s hard to understand what kind of military aid would be useful if it did not include lethal weapons. What were we to do, supply the Ukrainians with stun guns to oppose the invading Russian troops?

If Romney had won, he would probably have helped keep reasonable people in charge of the Republican Party. We might never have seen Donald Trump as the Republican candidate in 2016, much less as the elected president from 2017-2021.

We can dream. Of course, potential hindsight, even 20/30 hindsight, cannot help you if you don’t look in the rear-view mirror.

Joe Biden has done some things well in responding to the Russian invasion, tardily  and after a number of disastrous blunders to be sure, but he’s done them well nonetheless.

One thing President Biden has not done well is to explain to the American people why the Russian invasion of and ongoing war against Ukraine is a defining geopolitical event, shifting the tectonic plates of history and ushering in a new era, much as occurred in 1914 and 1939.

The world will never again be the same as it was before February 24, 2022.

President Biden needs to lay out the facts and the specific reasons this is the case.

He and his officials also need to describe, and anticipate, the kinds of effects on the lives of Americans this historical shift is likely to have or which it could have. Gas prices at the pump could be among the least of the costs we may have to pay.

Perhaps the most important change in our lives is that we are going to have to think again about nuclear war.  We’re going to have to  learn to live with the fear of  nuclear conflict and even escalation to nuclear war.

Mitt Romney, the  former Republican candidate for president in 2012, ,has begun this process with his op-ed in the New York Times on May 21, 2022.

Every American should read it in its entirety.  Slowly, and allowing time for the words to sink in.

President Biden and government officials should continue the process, leveling with the American people about what lies ahead or may lie ahead, and explaining why what happens in the Ukraine war is vital to the future life and well-being of citizens in the United States, and throughout the world.

The Trenchant Observer

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