In recent days, we have seen news reports proclaiming the Ukrainian victory along the western bank of the Dnipro River in the city of Kherson. These news reports, however, have served to drown out critical facts and considerations about the ongoing consequences of Russia’s unlawful aggression against Ukraine.
Recent tactical advances by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) have fueled Western social media campaigns. However shocking to the Twitterverse, however, Vladimir Putin and his generals do not appear swayed by them. Well-intentioned as they may be, bravado-filled tweets will not drive the Russians to their knees. They also will not keep the electricity on in Kiev this winter.
For some perspective, one needs to remember that Ukraine has been at war with Russia-backed separatists (ethnic Russians living in Ukraine) since 2014. That is the same year President Obama and Vice President Biden did virtually nothing to help Ukraine when Putin grabbed all of Crimea. Those facts are, unfortunately, completely lost on most Americans, in the same way that 99% of Americans cannot identify Ukraine on a map. International history and geography are beyond the scope of contemporary American memory or America’s ‘woke’ academia.
Putin illegally invaded Ukraine in February 2022, on the heels of large-scale U.S./NATO joint exercises conducted with the UAF during the summer (“Three Swords” and “Sea Breeze”) and autumn (“Rapid Trident”) of 2021.
The invasion followed parallel Russian wargames, codenamed “Zapad,” that included the participation of Belarus, Armenia, India, and Kazakhstan. These military exercises on both sides appeared to contribute to international tensions and misunderstandings, rather than acting as the historically reliable, confidence-building measures of decades past.
Following the events in Kherson came the missile strike on the Polish village of Przewodów, killing two civilians. At first, Russia was blamed, and there was aggressive talk of invoking Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, for the collective defense of the alliance. But, as it turned out, the missile was a Ukrainian air-defense S-300 that landed in Poland under curious circumstances, given the missile’s flight path and its maximum range of 160 miles.
In just over one hundred years, Europe has sustained the catastrophic death and destruction of two world wars (totaling at least 125 million casualties). The First World War was launched when ineffectual leaders, blinded by their hubris, stumbled through serial crises and then convinced themselves that war was the only answer. The Second World War was predicated on Britain and France fulfilling their “unconditional war guarantee” obligations to Poland in response to the German and Soviet invasions. Ironically, after six years of brutal combat, the aggressor, Soviet Union, which at that point was still our rehabilitated and beloved ally, was handed Poland on a blood-filled silver platter at Yalta by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
We must not stumble—or plan—our way into World War III. The U.S. has committed approximately $70 billion dollars’ worth of weapons and financial aid to Ukraine, accompanied by little to no oversight or accountability. For a broader perspective, remember that Congress refused to defend America’s territorial sovereignty via the construction of a border wall costing a mere $5 billion.
Another European war is criminally stupid, no matter how politicians or retired ‘television generals’ try to justify it as being ‘necessary for freedom.’ That is a lie. While I believe Putin is arrogant enough to grab 20% of Ukrainian territory, I do not believe he is stupid enough to desire direct combat with NATO. Even Putin understands the odds are stacked 30:1 against him: that is the number of NATO member countries versus Russia.
The Ukrainian war jingoisms masquerading as news reporting remind one of President George W. Bush’s March 5, 2005 proclamation, “Freedom is on the march!” Seventeen years later, we have a different assessment of Bush’s predicted trend for liberation in “the Middle East and throughout the world.” Likewise, it is time for a sober reflection concerning the war in Ukraine.
The stakes now are thermonuclear, and the supposed military experts and strategists are all becoming far too comfortable with tweets, podcast discussions, and television studio soundbites about tactical nuclear bomb yield, fallout, and downwind projections.
Ukraine, and in particular President Volodomyr Zelensky, are being kept afloat by U.S. dollars and weapons. Nevertheless, Ukraine is struggling to keep electricity, water, and basic services operating. Russia maintains an untapped, substantial military and technological capability that, for whatever reason, Putin has not chosen to deploy against the UAF, but which it may utilize at any point, at great cost to Ukraine and the West.
Russia is largely self-sufficient with natural resources and an intact industrial base, which can serve to support its continued war efforts. Despite President Joe Biden’s blustering, Western sanctions against Russia’s economy have not been ‘crippling.’
Taking all of this into account, perhaps the time for an immediate cease-fire and direct peace negotiations between the United States, Russia, and Ukraine has arrived. American leadership is necessary as the catalyst for peace and as guarantor of the West’s stability, Ukraine’s future, and whatever settlement is brokered. The Orbán government in Hungary is ready, willing, and able to host peace negotiations and has publicly volunteered to do so for months. It is therefore time to consider an immediate ceasefire and the launch of peace talks, to be held in Budapest.