Miscellany on Ukraine.

            Russia has 900,000 military personnel; Ukraine has about 200,000.  Russia has 3,400 tanks; Ukraine has 1,000.  Russia has 1,400 military aircraft; Ukraine has 130.[1]  Even faced with a Ukrainian “nation in arms,” Russia is likely to win this fight.  It is likely to be much more distressing to Western television audiences than it has been so far.[2]  

            The invading Russians obstruct the evacuation of civilians from besieged towns and cities for the same reason that the Ukrainians want the civilians evacuated.  Evacuation reduces the strain on the Ukrainian defenders.  Evacuation of non-combatants facilitates turning the town into a pure urban battlefield where conditions favor the defense.  If Ukrainian forces want to save the civilians, they could surrender.  They don’t want to surrender.  They want to fight. 

            Ukraine has an on-going territorial dispute with Russia.  In 2014, the Russians seized Crimea and fostered rebellions in two linguistically heavily Russian administrative districts in eastern Ukraine.  Admitting Ukraine to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) before these territorial disputes are resolved will just entangle NATO in those disputes.  So, the peace settlement after this war will probably involve Ukraine surrendering those territories to Russia.  It may also involve the neutralization of Ukraine on the Austrian or Finnish models.[3] 

            The list of political figures who were assassinated is a long one.  Rarely are dictators on them.[4]  They got to the peak of power by being devious and ruthless.  They pay attention to their personal security.  Vladimir Lenin died of natural causes.  Joseph Stalin died of natural causes.  Adolf Hitler killed himself on the eve of capture after the defeat of Germany.  Italian partisans captured and executed Benito Mussolini when he fled after the defeat of Germany.  The Americans captured Saddam Hussein and turned him over to Iraq’s government.  They executed him.  Hoping that someone close to Vladimir Putin is going to kill him is foolish. 

            It is reported that the Crown Prince of Saudia Arabia and the emir of the United Arab Emirates recently declined to take phone calls from President Joe Biden.  I conjecture that they think that the United States is neither a reliable friend nor a feared opponent.  First, they’re out in the open.  What if many other leaders feel something similar but haven’t declared themselves yet?  Second, if they are right, what do Americans want to do about it?  Painful choices loom. 

            For much of the early, critical phase of the Cold War, American presidents had a group of deeply-experienced and practical-minded men upon whom they could call for advice on foreign policy.  These “Wise Men”[5] helped guide the United States through a series of problems.  Does President Biden have an equivalent group of advisors?[6] 

            This whole thing is a can of worms. 


[1] Matthew Luxmoore et al, “NATO Members Resupply Weapons on a Historic Scale,” WSJ, 9 March 2022. 

[2] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Grozny_(1994%E2%80%931995) 

[3] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_State_Treaty 

[4] Lesser figures do get assassinated.  Czech soldiers killed Reinhard Heydrich.  Terrified fellow-Communists killed Lavrenti Beria. 

[5] See Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986).  The six were Robert Lovett, Dean Acheson, Averill Harriman, John J. McCloy, Charles Bohlen, and George Kennan.  To this list might be added others like Clark Clifford and Paul Nitze. 

[6] JMO and I come in peace, but Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton doesn’t strike me as much of a bench. 

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