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THE BATTLE FOR UKRAINE       

Saint Javelin

Ukrainian civilians inspect their new Russian tank.

Have you captured a Russian tank or armored personnel carrier and are worried about how to declare it [for tax purposes]? Keep calm and continue to defend the Motherland! There is no need to declare the captured Russian tanks and other equipment, because the cost of this does not exceed 100 days' living wages. (UAH 248,100)

Ukrainian National Agency for the
Protection against Corruption

Q&A ON THE 2022 RUSSO-UKRAINIAN WAR

28 MARCH 2022
(updated 6 APR)

Did irresponsible NATO expansion pressure Russia into invading Ukraine?
What is Russia’s “end-game” in Ukraine?
Are the Ukrainians “outgunned and outnumbered”?
Will Russia use nukes?
Is an overt NATO military intervention in Ukraine possible?
What are the prospects for Russian victory in Ukraine?
Do we want to see regime change in Russia?

See also:
William J. Broad, "Hundreds of satellites and spacecraft are keeping an eye on Russia’s nuclear forces from above. So far, they haven’t seen much to worry about," The New York Times, 5 April 2022.
Eliot A. Cohen, "The Strategy That Can Defeat Putin: The U.S.-led coalition of liberal-democratic states should pursue three objectives," The Atlantic, 7 MAR 2022.
Michael Crowley, "Would Putin Strike NATO Supply Lines to Ukraine? History Suggests No," The New York Times, 28 March 2022.
Jim Holmes, "What Would Clausewitz Say about Putin’s War on Ukraine?," U.S. Naval Institure Proceedings, Vol. 148/3/1 (March 2022), 429.
Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson, "Why Putin Went Straight for the Nuclear Threat," The New York Times, 1 April 2022.
DID IRRESPONSIBLE NATO EXPANSION PRESSURE RUSSIA INTO INVADING UKRAINE?

We are appalled that this question is even asked. The NATO alliance expanded into eastern Europe at the demand of countries there who were terrified of atrocity-prone Russia's persistent bullying and aggression. Therefore the responsibility for NATO expansion belongs exclusively to Russia. To claim otherwise is to argue that Russia possesses the innate right to oppress, invade, and control the countries on its borders, who have no right to control their own foreign policies or destinies. This is a perfectly reasonable argument if one is an agent of the autocracies. The Russian invasion of Ukraine simply ratifies the fears that drove the countries of the former Soviet empire into NATO's arms. It would have happened even if NATO did not exist—only sooner.

WHAT IS RUSSIA’S “END-GAME” IN UKRAINE?

Putin's objective in attacking Ukraine was the complete conquest and subjugation of the entire country. Its population and considerable military-industrial potential were to be fully incorporated into the Russian Federation (with perhaps some temporary and fictitious autonomy as window-dressing). He saw this as merely one step towards the restoration of the Russian Empire—and his alleged justifications apply without modification to the conquest of Finland, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and others. Given his failures so far, it appears that Russia may now be redefining its war aims, seeking to partition Ukraine and permanently retain  the Donbass, Crimea, and as much of the Black Sea coast as possible. Official Russian statements to that effect should, of course, be studiously ignored unless validated by actions on the ground.

His intentions were clearly to avoid direct conflict with NATO, relying at first on the assumptions that his conquest of Ukraine would be too rapid to permit a coherent NATO response and that it would fairly quickly become accepted as a fait accompli. Any annoying Western sanctions would be ineffective and would soon erode. The allies on NATO’s eastern flank would be left demoralized and more inclined to acquiesce to future Russian pressures.

All of these assumptions have so far proven delusional, but Putin ’s intention to avoid direct warfare with NATO remains. His boastful references to Russian nuclear capabilities and his threats to strike Western arms shipments once they arrive in Ukraine are in fact evidence of his intent to follow all previous Soviet/Russian policy and avoid any undeniable battle between Russian and NATO forces. This is also a de facto recognition that the war-zone is to be limited to Ukraine—NATO territories, Russia itself, Belarus, the high seas (except for an unspecified section of the Black Sea) are not to be targeted by any side. Ukrainian counter-fire into Russia and Belarus (1)(2) is, of course, to be expected, though Russia will no doubt express shock and outrage.

The Russo-fascist ideologues surrounding Putin have inherited much from Nazi thinking, but they’ve retained some Soviet communist ideas as well, including the notion that their ultimate victory is a historical inevitability. Accordingly, they will be prepared simply to await another opportunity to strike, as the decadence of the democracies inexorably proceeds and the “correlation of forces” eventually becomes more favorable. (Whether the aging Putin himself is inclined to such patience is a separate issue.) Thus even the loss of all Ukrainian territory seized since 2014 will represent only a temporary setback. It certainly would not cause the Russian Federation to commit suicide by engaging in a global war with a Western alliance that has obviously not yet rotted away quite so much as they had hoped.

Ukraine’s objective remains the re-conquest of all of its pre-2014 territory, and this now appears to be within the realm of possibility. NATO will predictably prefer to limit any Ukrainian advance to the status quo 2021. However, if we think that Russia would ultimately accept that outcome, there is no reason to think that it would not also accept the status quo pre-2014. With Ukraine providing the bulk of the ground forces, NATO will have to take Ukrainian demands into account.

ARE THE UKRAINIANS “OUTGUNNED AND OUTNUMBERED”?

Ukraine is indeed “outgunned” in some respects (though far less so in many respects than many pundits seem to understand), but its forces are hardly outnumbered. While Russia has about 1.3 million uniformed military personnel (counting reserves), it cannot deploy the great bulk of those forces to Ukraine. Ukraine has the second largest military in Europe after Russia and has large stocks of military equipment (including 2,000 tanks, most of which are equivalent or even identical to Russia’s inventory). It is a major arms manufacturer. The Russian invasion force numbers about 190,000 men, many of whom are necessarily support troops. The Ukrainian army, reserves, border troops, and trained territorial forces add up to about 500,000, and these are highly motivated. To that number we must add the innumerable volunteers who have flocked to the Ukrainian colors in recent months. Ukraine had about 7 million men of military age at the start of the Russian invasion; 470,000 males reach military age every year.

WILL RUSSIA USE NUKES?

Nuclear arms are last-ditch weapons that we could reasonably expect to see used by a nuclear-armed state that is facing occupation by a foreign power. No such state will accept being conquered on the model of the Nazi occupation of France, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, etc., during the Second World War, which appears to be the model Russia hoped to impose on Ukraine. That is why NATO has long refused to declare a “no first-use policy” for its own nuclear weapons. Their offensive use against another nuclear power is nonsensical. Russia presumably would not have invaded a nuclear-armed Ukraine, but that nation voluntarily gave up its Soviet-legacy nukes in return for security guarantees that have now been shown to be worthless. Putin's press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, made extensive remarks on 28 MAR to PBS interviewer Ryan Chilcoat completely walking back any suggestion that Russia would use nuclear weapons over anything less than a genuine threat to the existence of the Russian state. No such threat faces the Russian Federation, nor would even a complete defeat by NATO's own forces on Ukrainian territory rise to that level, since no nuclear power would risk invading Russia itself.

Thus there is no reason whatsoever to let Putin's nuclear saber-rattling affect any practical decision concerning practical NATO military actions, up to and including direct military engagement, on the ground and/or in the air, on Ukrainian territory. Bowing to this kind of empty threat would mean Russia could thereafter do absolutely anything it pleases. This doesn't mean that Russia will not use nuclear weapons—only that there is every reason not to expect it to do so, and thus no reason to let the prospect distort our policies and strategies. The only basis for practical NATO policy in the current war is to act as if the threat does not exist while simultaneously making visible, practical preparations to respond without any dithering.

At the political level, such preparation requires that NATO’s leadership—or at least the leaders of its three nuclear powers—publicly commit itself to a rapid and fully equivalent response. Such a commitment will make failure to execute that policy domestic political suicide—and thus be convincing. President Biden has already come rather close to that commitment with his promise to respond “in kind” to any Russian use of weapons of mass destruction. Since he is hyper-aware of the consequences of the Obama administration’s failure to enforce its “red lines” in Syria, there is every reason to expect that he will not make the same error now.

IS AN OVERT NATO MILITARY INTERVENTION IN UKRAINE POSSIBLE?

Unlike the Nazis, the Soviets had no social-Darwinist notions about the intrinsic value of heroic military struggles. They believed in attacking only opponents they thought to be ripe for conquest—internally divided and weak. Unfortunately, they repeatedly miscalculated, as with Finland and Afghanistan. Putin’s Russia has followed the same pattern, succeeding in minor wars against vastly inferior opponents but clearly miscalculating both Ukraine’s capabilities and will to resist and the cohesion of the American alliance system. Had Ukraine easily folded and NATO stood by helplessly wringing its hands, Putin would no doubt have proceeded to picking off other targets that had been demoralized by those failures. Despite his boasting and scare tactics, however, he clearly has no desire to fight a galvanized Western alliance that is massively superior in terms of population (the US/NATO/EU conglomerate alone outnumbers Russia 5 to 1), vastly richer (Russia’s economy is a tad larger than Spain’s), and led by the world’s greatest and most experienced military and technological power. A month ago, Putin may have imagined his army to be unstoppable, but it is now clear to everyone—including the Russian army itself—that this is not the case.

The question is how should the West intervene militarily. As Putin has stridently whined, NATO has already entered the conflict with its massive arms shipments and intelligence support to Ukraine. The principle to follow is that NATO—and particularly American—troops should never be seen to engage directly with Russian forces. Fortunately, the Soviets and the Chinese communists have provided many useful ways around this problem. In our previous proxy wars, Russia has never hesitated to arm our battlefield enemies or to supply its own aircraft and pilots as "volunteers" against us. We went along with that fiction while shooting many of them down, since Russia couldn't complain without giving up its cover-story. China’s “volunteer” armies fought us to a stalemate in Korea (losing hundreds of thousands of troops in the process), yet we never went to war against China. The Soviet navy made no effort to stem the flow of UN troops and supplies into South Korea, which their large submarine force could certainly have done. Russia’s mercenaries launched ground attacks against our troops in Syria. We killed them. No one can recall the occurrence of any wars with Russia as a result. If the Russians thought their “little green men” were somehow invisible during their invasion of Crimea, they will have a similarly hard time seeing NATO’s “little blue men” in Ukraine, especially because NATO troops will have no need to be on the front lines. [See also ]

NATO ground forces in Europe are currently rather sparse and must be spread broadly along the alliance’s frontiers for political reasons. Given the number of Ukrainian troops on the ground, however, the West needs only to provide air and missile defenses, arms including additional heavy offensive equipment, and massive logistical support (food, fuel, ammunition, medicine, much of which can be provided with a civilian workforce).

Lest one think that this is just one of Clausewitz.com's "logical fantasies," here's a 6 APR 2022 quotation from the U.S. General Philip Breedlove, former NATO SACEUR (2013-2016):

putting in a no-fly [zone] is an absolute act of war, but a humanitarian no-fly [zone] is very different. This is constructed with rules of engagement. And the way that works is, we actually tell the enemy we’re going to do this, just like we did in Georgia, which helped stop the fighting in Georgia. We’re going to come in there and we’re bringing in aid. You’re willing to inspect it. We’re willing to let you inspect it, whatever you want. But we’re bringing in aid, and we’re going to take out those who need help. And this is when we’re doing it, and this is when we’re coming. And we tell them, like we have in the past, we will not fire on you unless you fire on us, or you fire on those that we are protecting. If [either of] those two [things] happen, then we will defend those that we’re there to protect.

How exactly NATO’s “humanitarian umbrella” (absolutely not a no-fly-zone) will be extended onto Ukrainian territory will be a balance of delicate euphemism and firm action. The first step is well underway—Western arms and other supplies are flowing into Ukraine, largely unhindered by Russia. Highly visible, purely humanitarian convoys will follow. NATO’s “air defense identification zone” (a term of uncertain meaning, but absolutely not a no-fly-zone) will be extended just slightly beyond Lviv (only 50 miles from the Polish border) to ensure against “accidents.” Heavy-duty Western air- and missile-defense equipment in Ukrainian markings, manned and protected by troops in unidentifiable uniforms, will be increasingly noticeable. As well armed and well supplied Ukrainian forces recover ground, humanitarian resupply operations with have to penetrate deeper and deeper. At some point, the troops of individual NATO nations will start flying their own flags, but whether they represent the alliance will be ambiguous. Serious attacks against them by Russia will prompt intervention by a NATO peace-keeping force. NATO forces will establish a protective buffer (but certainly not a no-fly-zone) over parts of Free Ukraine as Ukrainian forces begin liberating Crimea.

WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR RUSSIAN VICTORY IN UKRAINE?

The 19th-century German military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz argued—very controversially—that defense is the strongest form of war at the operational, strategic, and political levels. (At the tactical level, technological and other developments sometimes shift the balance, as at present when a single soldier armed with a Javelin or NLAW can destroy a tank from a comfortable distance.) Certainly the greatest lesson of warfare since 1945 has been that invaders do very poorly over time against aroused and well-led home-grown forces generously supported by external powers. Some pundits argue that the modern West has “forgotten how to win wars.” After all, the United States failed in both Vietnam and Afghanistan. But this problem is not peculiar to the West. The Soviet Union failed in Afghanistan. Vietnam suffered at least 45,000 casualties during its 10-year occupation of Cambodia. Indonesia failed in East Timor. Saudi Arabia struggles in Yemen. Egypt struggles in the Sinai. Putin’s Russia is now likely to suffer the same fate in Ukraine—indeed, it looks like he will fail even to occupy the country in the first place.

The Russian people have a long history of enduring great sacrifices in defense of the motherland, but have shown little stomach for body-bags returning from optional military adventures elsewhere. Even if Putin had been able to overwhelm Ukraine’s conventional forces in a lightning campaign, a protracted insurgency was likely to bleed Russia dry, while heightened Western sanctions, isolation, and the corruption of his own regime wrecked Russia’s morale, economy, and ability to support an army on foreign soil. Putin may still choose to up the ante by committing more troops, but his best forces have already been found wanting and Ukraine is simply too large, too populous, too well armed, and too well supported by its democratic neighbors to crush via the brutal means he has employed in Chechnya and Syria.

Putin would be far better off cutting his losses, which he can probably get away with given his control of the media in Russia. But it seems unlikely that the West will return to the strategy of integrating Russia into the world economy in hopes that it will mellow into a “normal country.” That was a good idea that we were right to try. It's unfortunate that it didn't work out. But its failure (and the same idea's very different failure with China) has been obvious for quite some time now. The West's so-far successful response to the challenge in Ukraine is evidence that more fail-safes were put in place than some would like to claim, but it was still too little, too late.

The only way forward now seems to be to isolate and weaken Russia until it collapses from within, and then to foster its permanent break-up into multiple states, each too weak to dream of rebuilding the empire of the czars. That prospect carries massive problems of its own, but the Western hope that a moderately neo-imperial Russia would police an inherently fractious Eurasia has proven unsustainable.

That new-found realism is likely to apply as well to China, which has proven itself a similarly untrustworthy partner. Open war between the Democracies and China is unlikely, but erecting effective barriers against its exploitive behavior and overweening ambitions is probably going to be very high on the West’s list of good ideas.

DO WE WANT TO SEE REGIME CHANGE IN RUSSIA?

The demise of the old Soviet Union was indeed, as Putin has said, a great catastrophe—not for Russia but for the United States. Our own politics and our international alliances evidently needed a powerful external threat to keep them functioning for the greater good. Both have been on an accelerating downward course ever since our Cold War adversary folded. Al Qaida and ISIS proved a feeble substitute.

Comparisons of the USA and Rome have fallen out of fashion since the Americans squandered their "unipolar moment," but America's internal politics have indeed followed a very Roman model. The citizens of Rome were steadfastly loyal to the Republic for some four centuries. Unlike the case in most other Greek and Italian city-states, no Roman ever opened the capital's gates to a foreign foe in hopes of selfish political gain. The often bitter "struggle of the orders" between patricians and plebians never led to coups or civil war. Instead, the Roman constitution was steadily and peacefully remodeled to suit changing conditions. Despite the furious political rivalries among the aristocratic families, the Republic's leaders competed for honor and glory through service to the Republic and abided within the stern set of norms and mores [the "mos maiorum"] that defined the "Roman way." It has been said of the great Roman hero Scipio Africanus, who finally defeated Hannibal and Carthage after the massive Roman disasters of the Second Punic War, that he could have made himself King, had any Roman of his era been capable of conceiving such a crime. Rome reached its own unipolar moment when Rome had eliminated every other state capable of destroying it (and there had been a great many such states). Only then did its leading citizens finally feel free to turn against the final available enemies—each other. Their institutions were strong, and it took considerable time to erode the trust in one another that had carried them through many external dangers. Freed of foreign threats, however, Rome's internal politics became increasingly vicious, ultimately culminating in coups, civil wars, bloody proscriptions in which thousands of citizens who had backed the wrong candidates were executed in the streets, dictatorship, assassinations, and the end of the greatest republic of antiquity. (Ironically, imperial Rome's unipolar moment lasted another five centuries.)

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Americans have embarked on a similar course that threatens to wreck the American experiment in democracy, and with it the magnificent world permitted by the Pax Americana. Our allies have conducted themselves much better, but they have fallen into a pleasant dream that American power would enable them to live without the expense and inconvenience of defending themselves and that dream.

Thus savoring what—at the moment—looks like Russia's humiliation and hoping for Putin's imminent fall may not be a good idea at all. Perhaps it would be better to keep the Putin regime around for a while, just to force America and the other democracies to get and keep their act together. In the long run, of course, Russia's prospects seem poor. Fortunately, another and multidimensionally more dangerous adversary has arisen in China. One can always hope.

_______________________

EDITORIAL WRITTEN AT THE BEGINING OF THE RUSSO-UKRAINIAN WAR

3–6 MAR 2022

Putin is a thoroughly rational criminal. If he wants war with the West, he has made clear that he will launch one regardless of our actions or inaction. There are many reasons to act under the assumption that he will not risk a direct war with NATO and will use any excuses we give him to avoid one.

The Biden administration has done an amazingly good job of rallying America's allies and much of the rest of the world against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In order to do so, President Biden has taken every measure necessary to demonstrate that this tragedy has been forced upon the world exclusively by the will of Russia's current autocrat, Vladimir Putin. The American use of intelligence and public diplomacy has been—in sharp distinction to that of the previous 20 years—both deft and effective. Perhaps most importantly, it has been honest and therefore convincing. This President, who is a genuine professional in global politics on the order of FDR, Eisenhower, and Bush I, has ensured that the world clearly perceives Russia as the aggressor. He has convincingly demonstrated America's extreme reluctance to get involved in another foreign war. Establishing such underpinnings for the legitimacy of America's actions going forward are strategic necessities, not "signs of weakness." This phase is far more important than most commentators seem to realize.

Now, however, it is time to switch gears. Unfortunately, while Biden is a smart, determined leader and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky has been inspirational to the whole world, the U.S. President is hobbled both by genuine lovers of peace in his own party and by purely partisan opponents determined to undermine a Democratic president no matter the cost to America. Various flavors of technocrats have argued that armed assistance to Ukraine is "illegal" or will "give the Russians an excuse for war." These groups' objections are, respectively, irrelevant, disgusting, and absurd. The "Long Peace" has been broken. If Putin wants war with the West, he has made clear that he will launch one regardless of our actions or inaction. But Putin remains quite rational. Despite (or even because of) his shrill threats, there are many reasons to act under the assumption that he will not risk a direct war with NATO. The far more powerful Soviet Union never took such risks; defeat in Ukraine poses no threat to Russia proper; and Putin's forces are over-committed and struggling already. While he talks about U.S. and NATO support to Ukraine and Western sanctions as "equivalent to declarations of war," he has not responded accordingly. In all probabilityand strategy must deal with probabilities, not just fears—he does not want to dig the hole he's in any deeper and will use any of the excuses provided below to avoid one.

Particularly non-credible are Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons. This is a transparent bluff and the readiness-status of Russian nuclear forces has not increased. We cannot allow it to influence our actions. You can be certain that Putin, his cronies, and his military advisors are well aware that three NATO states (the USA, France, and the UK) are also nuclear powers. The most likely result of using nuclear weapons against the West would be, not restoration of the Russian Empire, but the end of Russian history.

So first, let's drop the fiction that NATO itself has not been attacked. Ukrainians are being butchered in order to prevent NATO and Ukraine from engaging in a peaceful, voluntary relationship. That is a direct attack on both Ukraine and the NATO nations' sovereignty. Putin's objective in attacking Ukraine—restoration of the Russian Empire—and its alleged justifications apply without modification to the conquest of Finland, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Moldova, and others. Putin has explicitly threatened violence against the United States, individual NATO nations, and NATO-friendly neutrals. When somebody stands at your front door making threats and waving a weapon, after having just shot your neighbors down in their own front yard, you are under attack. It appears that our Europeans allies have suddenly grasped that they are on the front lines and cannot count solely on American protection. (After all, we let Britain burn alone for two years at the start of World War II.)

Next, it is time for the United States to overcome its habitual obsession with its most recent bad experience overseas. Ukraine is not Afghanistan. In addition to their demonstrated determination to build a genuine Western-style democracy, the Ukrainians have shown a genuine willingness to fight for that goal. The United States has lain down thousands of lives and untold billions of dollars to defend societies that did neither. From a military point of view, NATO has few ground forces (the German Army has a mere 64,000 troops) and cannot afford to do without the 200,000 ground troops of the Ukrainian Army. Nor can NATO allow a hostile and nakedly aggressive Russia to capture Ukraine's 42 million people and considerable military-industrial capacity and to place its forces directly on NATO's own borders. From the moral, psychological, and political points of view, the Democracies cannot afford to commit another betrayal of a democratic neighbor willing to fight if supported by its friends, as they abandoned Czechoslovakia in 1938. That comparison has been overworked on many occasions, but it is precisely appropriate today. Hitler, however, had the decency to lie that this would be his last territorial claim in Europe. Putin indicates quite bluntly that there will be more.

It is also time to get over the idea that the Russians are ten feet tall. The Russian Federation has an economy the size of Italy's. Other than weaponry, it manufactures virtually nothing that anyone else is interested in buying—like other Third World countries, its principal exports are raw materials (oil and gas). Its population is less than half that of the United States, a third of the European Union's. Its criminal leaders have stashed most of Russia's money in the West (where we are confiscating it). Its military performance so far, in its first offensive against an enemy capable of fighting back on a large scale, has been unimpressive. Its people's faith in their government is dubious and their tolerance for absorbing serious casualties in foreign adventures is demonstrably weak. It has no allies, other than its natural enemy China, who is unlikely to intervene on its behalf and has no interest in seeing the world economy wrecked by global warfare.

For the moment, the United States can maintain its policy of keeping American ground troops out of the fight, but genuine American and European volunteers (all of whom should be carefully vetted for ability and respectable motivations) should be encouraged, assisted, equipped, and transported. We should make every effort to contain actual fighting to Ukrainian territory (except for Ukraine's own strikes into the Russian Army's rear area, which are entirely legitimate). We must be fully prepared for challenges at sea and ready to counter them globally. But one way or another, we must commit NATO airpower to this conflict. No modern army can fight another such force without air cover—not the South Vietnamese (who, fighting quite well without American ground forces but with our air support, defeated a massive North Vietnamese invasion in 1972) and not the Afghan National Army. This is not a moral indictment of those forces—it is simply the result of the way such armies are organized, trained, and equipped. America's own ground forces would collapse in a serious battle without air support. Now is the moment to act militarily, before Ukrainian will is sapped by Russia's characteristically vicious missile assault and while Russia's invading army is still massed in marshalling areas and on the roads.

To be sure, pugnacious actions by the Democratic world do not necessarily require overt fighting by forces flying NATO flags. Many powerful cyber moves can be taken by private companies and justified on purely commercial or business-security grounds. Cogent Communications, an American company that carries around 25% of world internet traffic and handles data for companies like Rostelecom (the biggest internet provider in Russia), has begun shutting down Russian customers’ access to its services. Elon Musk's StarLink satellites are providing internet service to Ukraine. (He could also turn off all the Tesla cars in Russia—probably less than a thousand, but all presumably owned by the well-off.) ICANN, the American multistakeholder group and nonprofit organization that oversees internet domains, could suspend the .ru domain. Microsoft might well be able to shut down every legitimate Windows operating system in Russia (and maybe the counterfeit ones as well). Such actions may not stop all Russian cyberattacks, but they will certainly cripple a lot of hackers on Russian soil and, of course, add to the general economic turmoil flowing from US and EU sanctions.

Regarding actual military moves, we can supply Putin with excuses for ignoring our hostile activities by taking pages out of Russia's own playbook. In our previous proxy wars, Russia has never hesitated to arm our battlefield enemies or to supply its own aircraft and pilots as "volunteers" against us. We went along with that fiction while shooting many of them down, since Russia couldn't complain without giving up its cover-story. Its mercenaries launched ground attacks against our troops in Syria. We killed them. No one can recall the occurrence of any wars with Russia as a result.

At the very least, NATO should begin to demand more information about aerial events along its borders. A "no-fly zone" is evidently off the table, but perhaps we could start with the ill-defined concept of an "air defense identification zone (ADIZ)." Create one as a purely passive requirement for positive identification of all aircraft within a modest distance beyond NATO borders (including the borders with Ukraine). Justify it as protection for refugees and against "accidents." Then gradually ramp it up as NATO air and air-defense assets pour into the region. At some point, Voila! It has evolved into a no-fly zone with another label.

Let NATO countries rent or loan appropriately re-painted "Popular Volunteer" air units and armed drones to Ukraine. Several NATO nations have stocks of Russian-built airplanes that Ukraine's pilots can fly. Offer to replace those aircraft with more capable French, UK, and American aircraft and training so they can be shipped to Ukraine. (Note that this will probably require the stationing of reassuringly large US air forces on those allies' soil while they work to absorb the new equipment.) Refer to Western trainers, advisors, and air-defense units on Ukrainian ground as stateless mercenaries, contractors, and "little blue volunteers."

Setup major naval "exercises" in the Baltic, the entrances to the Black Sea, and other maritime choke points. "Temporarily exclude" Russian traffic for "safety" reasons while accidentally letting everyone else through. Prevent any Russian-flagged or  -owned ship (commercial or naval) from entering or leaving world ports through mysteriously prolonged sanctions-enforcement inspections or invented "hazards to navigation." "Obscure local criminal groups" may seize Russian oligarchs' yachts in refuges like the Maldives and unaccountably abandon them at sea to be picked up by passers-by.

Let the Russians export all the oil they can (while we ramp up U.S. and other non-Russian production). Just don't pay for it. Seize the shipments currently at sea and put the money in escrow. Afterwards drain the escrow accounts to pay for everything we ship to Ukraine for fighting and reconstruction. Replenish depleted government-owned strategic reserves with oil that will then not flow to China if it chooses to soak-up Russian petroleum (probably at exploitive prices).

And actively prepare an "army of observation" on the Ukrainian frontier—i.e., a credible ground force capable of both defensive and offensive operations—in order to force Russian commanders to worry about their flanks. Actually use it only if needed to preserve a rump Ukraine and its legitimate government, in order to sustain its continuing resistance from a secure Ukrainian territorial base. (Hopefully we can get the heroic Zelensky out of Kiev alive if it falls.)

The rather wonderful world that American power—despite its more-than-occasional misuse—has built and protected over the last 77 years will be irretrievably lost if America and its allies do not act now. The alternative to fighting—whether or not it is masked by the kind of transparent Russian-style distortions we advocate—is a vastly strengthened and emboldened Russia. More such wars will follow. If Putin attacks Finland, Georgia, Moldova, or Sweden, NATO will be bound by the precedent it sets in Ukraine. Thus, peace is no longer on the table. However reluctantly, we must face this reality and act accordingly.

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