Betting On Putin’s State Of Mind

A couple of Twitter threads this morning point to the central problem of strategy in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Rob Farley’s argument with Emma Ashford starts here:

Ashford enters here:

The gist of the argument is how and when to end the war. Ukraine is being devastated, but nonetheless wants to continue. Its supporters see the devastation and also that their participation implies the possibility of the war widening, even to nuclear war. So it’s tempting to argue for a negotiated ending, with negotiations starting as soon as possible.

The trouble with that is it gives Russia a win. Not the win of a total Ukraine, but additions to the territories it took in 2014. It rewards imperial aggression. Putin seems unlikely to be satisfied with anything less than a Ukraine fully subordinate to Russia. His continuing aggression, from his seizure of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, shows no other endpoint.

That history gives no reason to believe that his aggression would end at Ukraine, although the damage to his military would make that harder.

The quandry is often simplified to “strength versus weakness.” This of course biases the argument toward strength, which means continuing to supply Ukraine so it can continue to prosecute the war and increase the support as necessary.

At the Munich Security Conference, Olof Scholz takes a similar position to Ashford’s.

Emmanuel Macron seems to be more on Farley’s. We’ll see more as the speeches become available and are analyzed.

It’s a continuing argument. It’s easy (particularly in a quickly-written post first thing in the morning) to overly simplify it. Both sides involve bets, mostly on Putin’s state of mind, which we can’t really know. Like Farley, I’m inclined to the strength side, but I find those frightening who advocate we can do what we want because Putin hasn’t nuked us yet.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

One comment

  1. The Blog Fodder · February 17

    Failure of the West to act out of fear of Russian nuclear weapons will destroy Ukraine and bring WWIII and nuclear war that much closer.


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