Whenever asked about whether the U.S. will change its policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine, to start pushing for Kiev to enter negotiations rather than apparently providing as much money and as many weapons as they ask for, the Biden administration’s refrain has been a consistent variation of “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing as long as it takes.”
As long as it takes for what?
For Ukraine to “win” its war against Russia, taking back all land occupied or annexed by Russia since 2014.
While it isn’t clear this is possible, and even less clear that pursuing such a maximalist outcome is in the American national interest, Joe Biden and his administration officials continually play dumb at the notion they could end the war, or they feign offense at the suggestion that the decision isn’t one entirely up to the Ukrainians, a decision the Biden administration cannot and should not in any way influence—it was the Ukrainians, after all, who elected Volodymyr Zelensky on a war platform.
Except, of course, that he was voted in on a peace platform.
As is now openly acknowledged, instead of then backing Zelensky when he tried to get the ultranationalists in the eastern part of Ukraine to submit to central authority and agree to elections per the Steinmeier Formula to implement Minsk II, as negotiated by the governments of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany, the Trump administration shrugged and told Zelensky to take a hike. The frontline ultranationalists who told Zelensky to go to hell—those are the guys the U.S. government has been working with since 2014 and arming with heavy weapons since 2017.
Not that all the weapons are getting to them, as no one was surprised to find out—nor much of the money for that matter. The situation has gotten so unacceptable that The Washington Post, while it still cheers the hurried passage of every new appropriation earmarked for Ukraine, has dared to openly question where all the guns and money that aren’t going to Ukraine are going. CBS released an entire documentary, which was then almost immediately partially retracted under pressure, casting a critical eye on the policy, which is corporate media speak for “This is a huge problem!”
Rather than halting or slowing the process in response to these justified objections, the Pentagon went ahead in October and put U.S. troops in Ukraine to supervise.
But while the deaths pile up and the stalemate continues, Americans should keep in mind that this is all part of the plan: to get other people killed so the U.S. government can weaken Russia and intimidate China. At least, that is what they think the plan is doing. It is hard to say for sure. Russia will be economically and technologically less robust over the long term, and no one likes running afoul of the U.S. Treasury, but it obviously seems to push Russia and China closer together. Was that part of the plan? If so, was it a good plan?
Other than finally admitting what we already knew, which was that flushing weapons down a black hole half a world away in one of the most corrupt countries in the industrialized world was a bad idea, the so-called Fourth Estate really has been failing abysmally. Though predictable, the corporate press has never met a war it doesn’t love; the copy The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have been publishing is naked war porn: daydreams about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blowing up the Russian ships blockading Odessa or about seizing the advantage from China and militarizing, or rather further militarizing, the Taiwan Strait in order to show Beijing that Uncle Sam isn’t going to be intimidated.
Because, you know, that’s how the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved without blowing up the world.
Then there are the tragically misnamed “think tanks,” the ones usually funded by some combination of foreign money and kindly donations by such equally disinterested third parties as Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman—all of which are so totally and obviously legitimate, they aren’t required to state any conflicts of interest as they breathlessly bang out their jeremiads about the dangers of repeating Munich, of the necessity of maintaining the credibility of American security guarantees—no matter how previously ill thought out, ambiguous, or now plainly inappropriate these guarantees are given the changed circumstances of the present.
Even if Tom Cotton doesn’t think we should question whether a security policy designed seventy years ago under very different circumstances merits questioning, it seems a prudent thing to do.
What’s the war even over, again? Membership in a security alliance Ukraine didn’t qualify for nor would have strengthened, which is already too big by half and which doesn’t even concretely serve American interests anymore? Democracy? Democracy everywhere is on the line if it vanishes in one of the most peripheral and corrupt countries in all of Europe, rated on par with Russia itself?
Let’s chance it.
Let’s say “NO!” to another forever war. Because while the endless conflicts of the terror wars could sit and simmer neglected and safely out of sight, quietly costing just a few extra trillion dollars and couple of thousand (American) lives, at no point did any of these conflicts approach the inherent dangers of a possible direct exchange between NATO and Russia, nor did their carry-on effects threaten the starvation and impoverishment of so many around the globe.
This has gone on long enough.
Mistakes were made—fine, that happens. No one is going to own up to them—predictable, but that too hardly matters anymore.
What matters is that multipolarity is a fact, see Olaf Scholz in Foreign Affairs, and that Washington’s own terrible example did more than anything else to undermine the “liberal rules-based international order,” see every other invasion of one country by another over the last thirty years. And while Washington’s capacity for resisting facts is almost as legendary as its penchant for making them up, there still remains time and hope that Americans will be able to rein in their government. The majority still can’t find Ukraine on a map, know a blank check isn’t a good policy, and don’t believe Ukraine will win.
The prospect of American political leadership with the bravery and vision necessary to chart a new course may be dim, but that should not stop those who oppose the current policy from voicing their opposition.
Far from it.
As reports by The Times of London on the Pentagon “tacitly endorsing” Ukrainian strikes deep into Russia make clear, the current precarious balance between belligerents could shift suddenly and with horrifying consequences.
The only way this was ever going to end, outside of escalation to a war between Russia and NATO and the likely end of human civilization, was through a negotiated settlement. It seems preferable that any division be done with a pen rather than a gun.
If nothing else has been made clear by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the rest of Europe is in no danger. If deals could be struck with the likes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, the greatest mass murderers of the twentieth century, and direct support given to the repressive, dictatorial regimes of Suharto, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Syngman Rhee, to name just a few, surely a deal can be done with the current occupant of the Kremlin.
This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.