Ukraine War, July 9, 2023: Ukraine’s stalled counter-offensive; Should NATO admit Ukraine AFTER the war, or NOW in order to win the war?

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1) Ian Lovett and Daniel Michaels, “Why the Ukraine Counteroffensive Is Such Slow Going; Outgunned, outmanned and facing a deeply entrenched enemy, Ukrainian troops are attempting one of the most daunting operations a military can undertake,” The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2023 (12:08 am ET);

2) Katie Rogers, “Biden Says Ukraine Is Not Ready for NATO Membership; President Biden, who will attend a NATO summit in Europe this week, said it was “premature” to allow Ukraine to join the alliance as the war with Russia continues, New York Times, July 9, 2023 (Updated 3:27 p.m. ET);


Ian Lovett and Daniel Michaels describe how the Ukrainian counter-offensive is bogged down in its effort to breach the well-prepared defensive fortifications the Russians have had time to build in the South in particular but also in the East.

Meanwhile President Joe Biden has declared that Ukraine is not ready for NATO membership, and won’t be until after the war.

His approach begs the really big question which should frame all discussions of the timing of Ukraine membership in NATO:

Should Ukraine be admitted to NATO only AFTER Russia’s war of aggression is over, or rather NOW in order to win the war with Russia?

To say Ukraine should be admitted only after the war is over betrays the naive assumption that Ukraine and the West will necessarily win the war, and that this will be achieved within the foreseeable forture.

Unfortunately, Biden and NATO have no idea of how or when Ukraine will win the war. The efforts of the West have so far been limited to ensuring that Ukraine does not lose the war.

There is no strategy for winning the war.

For many months Western leaders such as Biden and Olaf zscholz of Germany were unwilling to even say that victory was the goal in Ukraine’s war of self-defense against Russian aggression.

There is much evidence to suggest that Biden and some other Western leaders are still in denial, and fail to recognize the immense nature of the challenge to the United Nations Charter, international law, and indeed our current civilization which the Russian invasion and defiance of the cornerstone principle of the U.N. Charter and the systematic violation of all laws of war represent.

Because they are in denial about the fundamental nature of the conflict, Biden and many leaders of other NATO countries have not taken steps essential to any strategy for winning the war. These steps include, but are not limited to, the following:

1) the establishment of elements of a wartime economy that might ensure the production of the weapons and munitions required to sustain Ukraine in a long and successful war against the Russian invaders.

Ukrainian forces in their current counter-offensive remain shackled by a lack of artillery shells and other ammunition.

Advanced weapons including tanks and modern fighter aircraft have not been deployed in Ukraine in sufficient numbers to have a decisive impact on the battlefield.

2) A removal of restrictions on Western-supplied weapons, which prohibit Ukraine from attacking targets in Russia from which missile and drone attacks are being launched against Ukrainian cities, civilian infrastructure, and other civilian targets.

In effect, the West is forcing Ukraine to fight with one arm behind its back, prohibiting the target of Russian aggression and war crimes from exercising its inherent right of self-defense under internatiinal law and the U.N. Charter.

3) An all-out effort to force the countries of the Global South to join the sanctions regimes prohibiting non-humanitarian trade with Russia.

So far fence-sitters unwilling to condemn Russian aggression even in U.N. General Assembly resolutions have been given a free pass, paying no price for their tacit support of Russian aggression.

Even countries in the Global South which have condemned Russia at the U.N. (e.g., General Assembly resolution of February 23, 2023) have not been pressed hard to join the various international sanctions regimes.

These failures to take actions essential to winning the war result in part from a naive and wholly unjustified belief that the war can be brought to a halt through negotiations, resulting either in a ceasefire or in a peace settlement.

There are absolutely no grounds for believing that negotiations could lead to either outcome.

The only outcome which would not scuttle the United Nations Charter and its core prohibition against the use of force across international frontiers would be a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from all of the territory within Ukraine’s internationally-recognized frontiers of 1991.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has asserted–finally and after much waffling–that there can be no territorial concession to Russia in exchange for peace.

What is missing is a coherent strategy for putting that principle in place in a permanent peace settlement.

In other words, there is no U.S. and NATO strategy for winning the war.

Western leaders have not even begun to seriously consider what the consequences of losing the war might be.

It is high time that the U.S. and NATO develop and publicize a strategy for winning the war–and upholding the U.N. Charter.

The Trenchant Observer


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