If you are looking for more evidence of the panic that has seized the Washington foreign policy elite then the latest offering by Richard Haas and Charles Kupchan is a slam dunk. Haas has been a foreign policy guru since the 1980s. Kupchan is just an academic with nice pedigree but no clout:
Richard Nathan Haas is an American diplomat. He was president of the Council on Foreign Relations from July 2003 to June 2023, prior to which he was director of policy planning for the United States Department of State and a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell in the George W. Bush administration.
Their piece in Foreign Affairs — Redefining Success in Ukraine: A New Strategy Must Balance Means and Ends -is just one more reminder that years of experience does not make you smart or right. Haas and Kupchan’s lack of critical thinking skills displayed in this article is downright shocking. The deteriorating state of the Ukraine Army compelled Haas and Kupchan to admit the following:
Ukraine’s counteroffensive appears to have stalled, just as wet and cold weather brings to a close the second fighting season in Kyiv’s effort to reverse Russian aggression.
On the other side of the ledger are the enormous human and economic costs of the war and the reality that Russia has succeeded, at least for now, in using force to seize a sizable piece of Ukraine’s territory. Despite Ukraine’s much-heralded counteroffensive, Russia has actually gained more territory over the course of 2023 than Ukraine has.
The problem is that Ukraine’s military shows no signs of being able to break through Russia’s formidable defenses, no matter how long and hard it fights. Defense tends to have the advantage over offense, and Russian forces are dug in behind miles of mine fields, trenches, traps, and fortifications. The West can send more tanks, long-range missiles, and eventually F-16 fighter jets. But there is no silver bullet capable of turning the tide on the battlefield.
Time will not be on Ukraine’s side if a high-intensity war drags on indefinitely. Russia’s economy and its defense industrial base are on a war footing. Moscow is also importing arms from North Korea and Iran and has access to consumer items that contain technology that it can repurpose for military uses. Should Russia need to reinforce its military presence in Ukraine, it has a large pool of manpower on which to draw. Russia has also found new markets for its energy, while sanctions have had only a modest effect on the Russian economy. Putin appears politically secure and in control of the levers of power, from the military and security services to the media and public narrative.
So far, so good. Haas and Kupchan show they are not completely divorced from reality. Praise God for small miracles. The facts they list regarding Ukraine’s dire military situation should lead to the conclusion that Ukraine has lost the war and must find a way to end it without suffering more devastating losses. Right? Wrong. Haas and Kupchan call for the “more cowbell” strategy. Here is what they propose:
- Kyiv should offer a cease-fire in place while pivoting from an offensive to a defensive strategy.
- Ukraine should focus on holding and rebuilding the territory that it now controls, reversing the offense-defense equation and putting Russia in the position of having to bear the exorbitant costs of conducting offensive operations against well-dug-in Ukrainian forces and expanded air defenses.
- Ukraine could continue using long-range weapons, naval assets, and covert operations to strike at Russian positions in rear areas and in Crimea, raising the costs of continuing occupation.
- The United States and select NATO members (a friends of Ukraine coalition of the willing) should commit not just to long-term economic and military help but also to guaranteeing Ukraine’s independence.
Expanded “air defenses?” What whacky weed are these guys smoking? None of the systems the United States and its NATO allies have provided to Ukraine have worked. Not one. Hell, Ukraine cannot even defend against the drones that are saturating their frontlines. Moreover, the United States has admitted that it no longer has an ample supply of Patriot missile batteries to send to Ukraine. Chalk this recommendation up to Magical Thinking.
How about Russia accepting a cease-fire? More wishful thinking. Russia now realizes that no promise of the West is worth the paper it is written on. Putin and his Generals know that the United States and NATO sabotaged the “cease-fire” agreement worked out in Turkey on March 29, 2022. Haas and Kupchan are living in a fantasy world populated by unicorns and gnomes. Russia will set the terms, not Ukraine.
Haas and Kupchan also assume that Russia is some sort of prison bitch, who will passively sit back and do nothing if Ukraine decides to use, “long-range weapons, naval assets, and covert operations to strike at Russian positions in rear areas and in Crimea.” Good Lord fellas, you already admitted that Russia’s defense industry is firing on all eight cylinders and that Russia has an ample supply of men, not to mention the material resources, to sustain a fight. Ukraine has none of those. Zippo. Zero. Nada. Any strike by Ukraine will be answered by a downpour of hypersonic missiles.
What about the United States and NATO, “guaranteeing Ukraine’s independence?” With what? Promising to send NATO troops into Ukraine to fight Russia? Joe Biden will win a Nobel Prize for Physics before that happens. Here is the reality — Russia is wielding a sledgehammer and Ukraine is a nail. No one in the West or Ukraine has a magical anti-sledgehammer device. Russia will keep on pounding until Ukraine and the West surrenders.
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