Updated: Aug 3
Washington’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security interests in Ukraine and negotiate an end to this war is the path to protracted conflict and human suffering.
During a speech given on November 29, Polish Vice-Minister of National Defense (MON) Marcin Ociepa said: "The probability of a war in which we will be involved is very high. Too high for us to treat this scenario only hypothetically." The Polish MON is allegedly planning to call up 200,000 reservists in 2023 for a few weeks’ training, but observers in Warsaw suspect this action could easily lead to a national mobilization.
Meanwhile, inside the Biden administration, there is growing concern that the Ukrainian war effort will collapse under the weight of a Russian offensive. And as the ground in Southern Ukraine finally freezes, the administration’s fears are justified. In an interview published in the Economist, head of Ukraine’s armed forces General Valery Zaluzhny admitted that Russian mobilization and tactics are working. He even hinted that Ukrainian forces might be unable to withstand the coming Russian onslaught.
Yet, Zaluzhny rejected any notion of a negotiated settlement and instead pleaded for more equipment and support. He went on to insist that with 300 new tanks, 600 to 700 new infantry fighting vehicles, and 500 new Howitzers, he could still win the war with Russia. Truthfully, General Zaluzhny is not asking for assistance, he’s asking for a new army. Therein lies the greatest danger for Washington and its NATO allies.
When things go badly for Washington’s foreign policy, the true believers in the great cause always draw deeply from the well of ideological self-delusion to steel themselves for the final battle. Blinken, Klain, Austin, and the rest of the war party continue to pledge eternal support for Kiev regardless of the cost. Like the “best and the brightest” of the 1960s they are eager to sacrifice realism to wishful thinking, to wallow in the splash of publicity and self-promotion in one public visit to Ukraine after another.
This spectacle is frighteningly reminiscent of events more than 50 years ago, when Washington’s proxy war in Vietnam was failing. Doubters within the Johnson administration about the wisdom of intervening on the ground to rescue Saigon from certain destruction went into hiding. In 1963, Washington already had 16,000 military advisors in Vietnam. The idea that Washington was supporting a government in South Vietnam that might not win against North Vietnam was dismissed out of hand. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, “We will not pull out until the war is won.”
By the spring of 1965, American military advisors were already dying. General Westmoreland, then commander of Military Assistance Command Vietnam, reported to LBJ: “It is increasingly apparent that the existing levels of United States aid cannot prevent the collapse of South Vietnam... North Vietnam is moving in for the kill... Acting on the request of the South Vietnamese government, the decision must be made to commit as soon as possible 125,000 United States troops to prevent the Communist takeover.”
The Biden administration’s unconditional support for the Zelensky regime in Kiev is reaching a strategic inflection point not unlike the one LBJ reached in 1965. Just as LBJ suddenly determined in 1964 that peace and security in Southeast Asia was a vital U.S. strategic interest, the Biden administration is making a similar argument now for Ukraine. Like South Vietnam in the 1960s, Ukraine is losing its war with Russia.
Ukraine’s hospitals and morgues are filled to capacity with wounded and dying Ukrainian soldiers. Washington’s proxy in Kiev has squandered its human capital and considerable Western aid in a series of self-defeating counter-offensives. Ukrainian soldiers manning the defensive lines facing Russian soldiers in Southern Ukraine are brave men, but they are not fools. The Spartans at Thermopylae were brave, and they still died.
The real danger now is that Biden will soon appear on television to repeat LBJ’s performance in 1965, substituting the word "Ukraine" for "South Vietnam":
Tonight, my fellow Americans I want to speak to you about freedom, democracy, and the struggle of the Ukrainian people for victory. No other question so preoccupies our people. No other dream so absorbs the millions who live in Ukraine and Eastern Europe… However, I am not talking about a NATO attack on Russia. Rather, I propose to send a U.S. led coalition of the willing, consisting of American, Polish, and Romanian armed forces into Ukraine, to establish the ground equivalent of a “no-fly zone.” The mission I propose is a peaceful one, to create a safe zone in the Western most portion of Ukraine for Ukrainian Forces and refugees struggling to survive Russia’s devastating attacks…
Disaster wrapped in rhetoric is not the way to save the people of Ukraine. The war in Ukraine is not a Call of Duty fantasy. It is an enlargement of the human tragedy that NATO’s eastward expansion created. The victims do not live in North America. They live in a region that most Americans can't find on a map. Washington urged the Ukrainians to fight. Now Washington must urge them to stop.
NATO’s governments are divided in their thinking about the war in Ukraine. Except for Poland and, possibly, Romania, none of NATO’s members are in a rush to mobilize their forces for a long, grueling war of attrition with Russia in Ukraine. No one in London, Paris, or, Berlin wants to run the risk of a nuclear war with Moscow. Americans do not support going to war with Russia, and those few who do are ideologues, shallow political opportunists, or greedy defense contractors.
When U.S. forces finally withdrew from Southeast Asia, Americans thought that Washington would exercise greater restraint, recognize the limits of American power, and pursue a less militant, and more realistic foreign policy. Americans were mistaken then, but Americans and Europeans know now that Washington’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security interests in Ukraine and negotiate an end to this war is the path to protracted conflict and more human suffering.