Any long-term planning for Ukraine and for the West should now also be predicated on the postwar persistence of a malignant and militarized Russia, which may well intend to restart the war once it has had a breather. Potential dissidents have fled the country or are in jail; a societal mobilization built on xenophobia and paranoia is under way; freedom of expression is being stamped out; and any successors to Vladimir Putin are unlikely to be much better. Both Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Security Council, and Dmitri Medvedev, its deputy chairman, have expressed eliminationist views no less rabid than those articulated by their boss. Furthermore, even a defeated Russia will retain, in the Russian general staff, a thinking and planning organ of considerable quality. They will learn, adjust, and come back to avenge their humiliations at the hands of Ukraine and the West. And if they do not feel humiliated, it will only be because they have succeeded in crushing out the life of a free, sovereign, and whole Ukraine.
All of this being so, the best possible outcome leading to a cessation of fighting would be a Russian military collapse. If the West hopes to achieve this, it must provide Ukraine with a massive amount of all necessary weapons short of atomic bombs. Such an effort would require the kind of dramatic increases in output made possible under legislation like the American Defense Procurement Act of 1950.
The Russian military in Ukraine is in a parlous state. On a large scale it cannot maneuver, it cannot coordinate, it cannot assault. Its losses have been stunning. The Ukrainians, meanwhile, have suffered as well, but the indications are that General Zaluzhny has been conserving units for a spring offensive once the mud dries. The West needs to do all it can to ensure the success of that effort. [Continue reading…]