Thursday, May 18, 2023

Did You See The Patriot Missile Battery Get Destroyed By A Single Kinzhal Hypersonic Missile?

Harpers  | To what degree would Washington even be interested in a negotiated resolution to the war in Ukraine?

After all, a good deal of evidence suggests that the administration’s real—if only semi-acknowledged—objective is to topple Russia’s government. The draconian sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia were designed to crash its economy. As the New York Times reported, these sanctions have

ignited questions in Washington and in European capitals over whether cascading events in Russia could lead to “regime change,” or rulership collapse, which President Biden and European leaders are careful to avoid mentioning.

By repeatedly labeling Putin a “war criminal” and a murderous dictator, President Biden (using the same febrile rhetoric that his predecessors deployed against Noriega, Milošević, Qaddafi, and Saddam Hussein) has circumscribed Washington’s diplomatic options, rendering regime change the war’s only acceptable outcome.

Diplomacy requires an understanding of an adversary’s interests and motives and an ability to make judicious compromises. But by assuming a Manichaean view of world politics, as has become Washington’s reflexive posture, “compromise, the virtue of the old diplomacy, becomes the treason of the new,” as the foreign policy scholar Hans Morgenthau put it, “for the mutual accommodation of conflicting claims . . . amounts to surrender when the moral standards themselves are the stakes of the conflict.”

Washington, then, will not entertain an end to the conflict until Russia is handed a decisive defeat. Echoing previous comments by Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declared in April 2022 that the goal is to weaken Russia militarily. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly dismissed the idea of negotiating, insisting that Moscow is not serious about peace. For its part, Kyiv has indicated that it will settle for nothing less than the return of all Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia, including Crimea. Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has endorsed the strategy of applying enough military pressure on Russia to induce its political collapse.

Of course, the same momentum pushing toward a war in pursuit of overweening ends catapults Washington into pursuing a war employing unlimited means, an impulse encapsulated in the formula, endlessly invoked by Washington policymakers and politicians: “Whatever it takes, for as long as it takes.” As the United States and its NATO allies pour ever more sophisticated weapons onto the battlefield, Moscow will likely be compelled (from military necessity, if not from popular domestic pressure) to interdict the lines of communication that convey these weapons shipments to Ukraine’s forces, which could lead to a direct clash with NATO forces. More importantly, as Russian casualties inevitably mount, animosity toward the West will intensify. A strategy guided by “whatever it takes, for as long as it takes” vastly increases the risk of accidents and escalation.

The proxy war embraced by Washington today would have been shunned by the Washington of the Cold War. And some of the very misapprehensions that have contributed to the start of this war make it far more dangerous than Washington acknowledges. America’s NATO expansion strategy and its pursuit of nuclear primacy both emerge from its self-appointed role as “the indispensable nation.” The menace Russia perceives in that role—and therefore what it sees as being at stake in this war—further multiply the danger. Meanwhile, nuclear deterrence—which demands careful, cool, and even cooperative monitoring and adjustment between potential adversaries—has been rendered wobbly both by U.S. strategy and by the hostility and suspicion created by this heated proxy war. Rarely have what Morgenthau praised as the virtues of the old diplomacy been more needed; rarely have they been more abjured.

Neither Moscow nor Kyiv appears capable of attaining its stated war aims in full. Notwithstanding its proclaimed annexation of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson administrative districts, Moscow is unlikely to establish complete control over them. Ukraine is similarly unlikely to recapture all of its pre-2014 territory lost to Moscow. Barring either side’s complete collapse, the war can end only with compromise.

Reaching such an accord would be extremely difficult. Russia would need to disgorge its post-invasion gains in the Donbas and contribute significantly to an international fund to reconstruct Ukraine. For its part, Ukraine would need to accept the loss of some territory in Luhansk and Donetsk and perhaps submit to an arrangement, possibly supervised by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, that would grant a degree of cultural and local political autonomy to additional Russian-speaking areas of the Donbas. More painfully, Kyiv would need to concede Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea while ceding territory for a land bridge between the peninsula and Russia. A peace settlement would need to permit Ukraine simultaneously to conduct close economic relations with the Eurasian Economic Union and with the European Union (to allow for this arrangement, Brussels would need to adjust its rules). Most important of all—given that the specter of Ukraine’s NATO membership was the precipitating cause of the war—Kyiv would need to forswear membership and accept permanent neutrality.

Washington’s endorsement of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky’s goal of recovering the “entire territory” occupied by Russia since 2014, and Washington’s pledge, held now for more than fifteen years, that Ukraine will become a NATO member, are major impediments to ending the war. Make no mistake, such an accord would need to make allowances for Russia’s security interests in what it has long called its “near-abroad” (that is, its sphere of influence)—and, in so doing, would require the imposition of limits on Kyiv’s freedom of action in its foreign and defense policies (that is, on its sovereignty).

Such a compromise, guided by the ethos of the old diplomacy, would be anathema to Washington’s ambitions and professed values. Here, again, the lessons, real and otherwise, of the Cuban Missile Crisis apply. To enhance his reputation for toughness, Kennedy and his closest advisers spread the story that they forced Moscow to back down and unilaterally withdraw its missiles in the face of steely American resolve. In fact, Kennedy—shaken by the apocalyptic potentialities of the crisis that he had largely provoked—secretly acceded to Moscow’s offer to withdraw its missiles from Cuba in exchange for Washington’s withdrawing its missiles from Turkey and Italy. The Cuban Missile Crisis was therefore resolved not by steadfastness but by compromise.

But because that quid pro quo was successfully hidden from a generation of foreign policy makers and strategists, from the American public, and even from Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s own vice president, JFK and his team reinforced the dangerous notion that firmness in the face of what the United States construes as aggression, together with the graduated escalation of military threats and action in countering that aggression, define a successful national security strategy. These false lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis were one of the main reasons that Johnson was impelled to confront supposed Communist aggression in Vietnam, regardless of the costs and risks. The same false lessons have informed a host of Washington’s interventions and regime-change wars ever since—and now help frame the dichotomy of “appeasement” and “resistance” that defines Washington’s response to the war in Ukraine—a response that, in its embrace of Wilsonian belligerence, eschews compromise and discrimination based on power, interest, and circumstance.

Even more repellent to Washington’s self-styling as the world’s sole superpower would be the conditions required to reach a comprehensive European settlement in the aftermath of the Ukraine war. That settlement, also guided by the old diplomacy, would need to resemble the vision, thwarted by Washington, that Genscher, Mitterrand, and Gorbachev sought to ratify at the end of the Cold War. It would need to resemble Gorbachev’s notion of a “common European home” and Charles de Gaulle’s vision of a European community “from the Atlantic to the Urals.” And it would have to recognize NATO for what it is (and for what de Gaulle labeled it): an instrument to further the primacy of a superpower across the Atlantic.


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