The resumption of US aid to Ukraine is a good moment to craft a new strategy to make sure the West prevails against its gathering enemies.

Why Pay for Kyiv? Because We Must

Western officials now say that Ukraine’s fate hangs in the balance, despite the $61bn aid package finally agreed upon by the US House of Representatives, which has now passed into law.

The situation at the front is extremely grave. Any delay at all in getting this aid to Ukraine means it will likely lose the war by Christmas.

Ukrainian generals warn that their defenses might collapse under the pressure of a Russian army that has exceeded Western expectations in its capacity and ability to remobilize manpower and industry. Once again, on April 22 the Ukrainians were forced back by a Russian army that boasts a 10:1 advantage in artillery alone.

Moreover, China is supporting Russia’s military in its biggest expansion since the Soviet era, while North Korea and Iran are also significantly contributing to the regeneration of the Kremlin’s military capability.

It is no surprise therefore that Russian land forces are still advancing, while Ukraine’s entire energy infrastructure is being pulverized (an estimated 60% of generating capacity has been destroyed.)

Yet, it is also noteworthy that after the recent Russian attacks on the Ukrainian electricity power grid, Europe has managed to organize extra Patriot missiles to Kyiv, signifying its growing resolve. Although the news of US aid is good news and will help boost Ukrainian morale, the performance of Putin’s army has exceeded Western expectations for several reasons.

First, Russia has reconstituted its army faster than anticipated. Its war economy is close to full mobilization, with factories across the country delivering much more military hardware to the frontline.

This means that Ukraine and the West are actually confronting a de facto hostile alliance of these powers and that — as US Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Christopher Cavoli testified — Europe is under systematic attack.

Next, the repercussions of this war are global in scope and thus transcend Europe. At the same time many NATO member governments and the alliance itself are now warning, correctly in our view, that to be fully protected and be granted a promising future, Ukraine must enter NATO soon and probably the European Union (EU) too.

For this to happen, Ukraine must first halt this summer’s Russian offensive without additional losses of national territory. Only then, and only if Ukraine is truly confident about its chances, should it launch a counteroffensive in late 2024 or early 2025.

In our view, it is of paramount importance that the Ukrainians act with a great sense of caution and realism, because if its much-desired counteroffensive fails then there is a high risk of being crushed by Putin’s regime — remember that Russia has a 4:1 demographic advantage.

Such a Russian victory would place all of Central and Eastern Europe at risk. We should recall that Putin’s December 2021 demands, just before the all-out war was launched, demanded that the US and its allies remove all troops and infrastructure from the NATO states that joined after 1997.

Could the West resist if faced with a victorious Russia? Much depends on whether in the event of Ukrainian defeat, it had been able to rearm and so face down his imperialistic ambitions.

It would be far better not to find out. It is therefore imperative that we sustain Ukraine militarily, politically, and economically. Moreover, in sustaining Ukraine we must also defend Europe and the international order — vital interests not only for European governments but also for the US, which has fought three wars (the last being the Cold War) to establish peace, security, and a lawful order in Europe and abroad.

What, then, must be done? Beyond sending Ukraine the weapons it needs and has requested, the administration must come off the fence and repudiate its past equivocation with a full-throated commitment to Ukraine’s independence and the recovery of its territorial integrity, i.e. complete victory.

In doing so, the US and NATO must go beyond merely a regular and consistent supply of the weapons Ukraine needs, and also commit to the broader task for which NATO was established. In other words, all of NATO’s 32 member states must make a serious, long-term commitment to conventional deterrence along the entire frontier from the Arctic to the Black Sea. Doing so will restore the balance broken by Russia, and negate the Kremlin’s efforts to dominate the escalation process and freely threaten nuclear weapons based upon its conviction of NATO’s essential irresolution.

The instruments and capacity to do this are available. Western leaders should also think more creatively about how to assist Ukraine, e.g. helping it restore freedom of navigation in the Black Sea, which Russia has curtailed.

Likewise, something resembling the World War II lend-lease program could be revived, especially as it was brought back in 2022-23, and unaccountably (and wrongly) allowed to expire.

At the same time, the US and Europe need governmental leaders to articulate forthrightly to their publics that the peace may fail, with all that entails. Rather than surrender the public square to the revived isolationist literature that frankly does not care about Ukraine or European security and that emulates the blinkered pre-World War II literature asking “Pourquoi mourir pour Danzig?” (or Why die for Danzig?), when the real question was, Why die for Paris or London?

Ensuring Ukraine’s victory and European security, for the two are also interlinked, must entail credible and effective security for Ukraine. Of course, NATO’s expansion to Ukraine will cause Russia to scream and shout, but its long history of breaking every arms control treaty since 1990, along with eight treaties with or involving Ukraine, means it carries very little weight.

Lastly, the West must also address the economics of this war. This means rebuilding the US and European defense industrial sectors as fast as possible — and much faster than hitherto — while removing loopholes to make sanctions on Russia more stringent, especially for its enablers, principally China.

In other words, the current drift must end and a truly multi-dimensional strategy be agreed. The precondition for this policy is a collective recovery of nerve, or more plainly, courage.

President Macron, who now advocates a resolute strategy, rightly labeled his opponents as cowards. This may be impolitic, but it is not inaccurate.

Shakespeare memorably wrote “when the blast of war is in your ears, imitate the action of a tiger.”

The method of restoring security for the US and Europe is clear enough. The question remains, who will lead the charge, and who has the stature and clarity of vision to meet the moment? Their hour has now come.

Source: CEPA