Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Stalemate ≠ Checkmate

Writing for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philip Wasielewski makes a decent argument that “Stalemate Is Not Checkmate in Ukraine.”  Along the way he somewhat shoots down one of my arguments for support of the war there, but makes others which are persuasive.

He notes most recruits are from poor parts of Russia where the only media is state media.  He argues that Russian media has largely convinced Russian troops that Ukraine is supposed to be Russian territory, and that its “independence” is a corrupt undertaking. This tends to vitiate my contention that Russia will tire of this war as it did of that in Afghanistan and go home.

On the other hand he agrees that the Ukrainians are committed to the fight, and that they have done two things which make the Russian army less feared by our NATO allies. First, they have shown it to be corrupt and badly managed. Second, they have destroyed much of its material supplies, armor, and ammunition.

While stalemated on the ground, they’ve had substantial successes elsewhere, especially against the Russian navy in the Black Sea. This has enabled them to ship grain and earn foreign exchange with which to support themselves and buy arms.

By supporting Ukraine we have, for the time being, taken the Russians off the chessboard of Europe by tying them down in Ukraine. That is no small feat, accomplished at the cost of essentially zero NATO lives, but quite a few NATO dollars, of which we provided most. We’ve also helped move Finland and Sweden into NATO which can only make the alliance stronger.