It’s Always Time for Something

After enumerating the aspects of its war on Ukraine that Russia is winning including the military, economic, and diplomatic fronts, in their piece in the >Wall Street Journal Eugene Rumer and Andrew S. Weiss turn to next steps:

Taken together, this state of affairs poses an unprecedented challenge for Western leaders. Washington and its allies have been remarkably effective at tackling the most urgent aspects of this problem: staving off Ukraine’s collapse, keeping it well-supplied with advanced weapons and real-time intelligence, and devising sanctions against Russia.

But now is the time to transition to a long-term strategy that increases and sustains the pressure on the rogue regime in the Kremlin. There should be no illusions that any possible combination of short-term steps will be sufficient to force Putin to abandon his war.

What Western leaders conspicuously haven’t done is level with their publics about the enduring nature of the threat from an emboldened, revisionist Russia. They have indulged all too often in magical thinking—betting on sanctions, a successful Ukrainian counter-offensive or the transfer of new types of weapons to force the Kremlin to come to the negotiating table. Or they have hoped to see Putin overthrown in a palace coup.

During the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy thinkers didn’t bet on a sudden change of heart by the Kremlin or the overnight collapse of the Soviet system. Instead, they put their faith in a long-term vision of resisting a dangerous regime and making the required investments in national defense and the military capabilities of our alliances—a policy, in George Kennan’s classic formulation, of “patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.”

A policy of containment today would mean continuing Western sanctions, isolating Russia diplomatically, preventing the Kremlin from interfering in our own domestic politics, and strengthening NATO deterrence and defense capabilities, including sustained U.S.-European reinvestment in our defense-industrial base. It would also mean mitigating all of the damage—diplomatic, informational, military and economic—caused by Putin’s war.

What I’m missing in their article is how to contain Russia without containing China which rather obviously is something we are unwilling and unprepared to do. Quite to the contrary what I believe we’re succeeding in doing is containing ourselves without containing Russia or China.

It’s also worth noting that Germany’s military spending, despite its public statements, has remained stubbornly right around where it was 20 years ago as a percentage of GDP. As have those of Poland, France, and the United Kingdom.

Our presumed allies are simply not mobilizing as one might expect to meet such a threat. If your retort is that they’ve increased since 2022, my response would be yes, they have. Very minorly. Maybe about 5%. Something doesn’t add up. They either don’t see a threat or they’re depending on good old Uncle Sugar to bear the costs of meeting it.

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  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    “What I’m missing in their article is how to contain Russia without containing China which rather obviously is something we are unwilling and unprepared to do.”

    Not just China, but India, and most of the whole Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Egypt).

    They are starting to get semi-serious about creating a blockade of Russian oil shipping through the Danish straits. Combine that with bribing Turkey to close the Bosporus and you could really crimp Russian trade. Needless to say, a blockade is a much more serious matter then sanctions….

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