Endless War in Ukraine Harms National and Global Security |


What are the objectives of the United States in the war in Ukraine? Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently announced that the United States wants “Russia weakened to the point that it cannot do the kinds of things it did by invading Ukraine.” The commitment of the United States to this end has been substantial. President Joe Biden is asking for $33 billion in additional aid. When defense ministers from some 40 countries met at Ramstein Air Base in Germany last month, the focus was not on a peace deal but on outright victory for the Ukraine or at least on the “permanent weakening” of Russian military power.

But as the violence continues, war fever is mounting, and we better be clear about our goals. Engaging in a long and crushing proxy war with Russia would have grave consequences not only for the people of Ukraine, but also for the security interests of the United States and its allies.

The moving resistance of the Ukrainians to the Russian invasion should not make us forget the appalling cost in lives and property. A staggering 28% of Ukraine’s population is said to have been displaced, either internally or abroad. If the war is prolonged, this share will increase.

About a third of Ukraine’s basic infrastructure — roads, railways, bridges — has been damaged or demolished. Such destruction will continue. Even if the war were to end tomorrow, reconstruction and a return to pre-war production levels would take years and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Moreover, at a time when the global economy was already ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, this war and the sanctions imposed on Russia add to the global upheaval. Last year, Russia was the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, the second largest exporter of crude oil and the third largest exporter of coal. Unsurprisingly, the price of fuel has skyrocketed since the invasion. Our allies in Europe are particularly affected. US residents are suffering from rising prices for steel, aluminum, car batteries, computer chips and more. Inevitably, this will begin to erode support for the war.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, Russia and Ukraine together supply 30% of the wheat and 20% of the corn to world markets, as well as three-quarters of the sunflower oil and one-third of the barley in the world. world. Russia is also a major producer of products used in the manufacture of fertilizers.

In this hemisphere, many Latin American countries are already facing fertilizer shortages, with crops in Brazil being particularly at risk. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 14 African countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for half of their wheat, Eritrea (100%), Somalia (more than 90% ) with Egypt (nearly 75%) being at the top of the list. Continued war could condemn 47 million more people to acute hunger, experts estimate.

Inevitably, the continuation of the conflict strengthens the hawks in the United States and Russia – and makes any settlement more difficult. To justify the rising costs, everyone must stir up patriotic fervor and highlight the issues. Nuclear arsenals loom in the background. During the Cold War decades, Washington and its allies strove to avoid war with Russia, standing there even as Russia suppressed independence movements in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. So for officials to comment now on the permanent weakening of Russia is extremely unwise.

If Biden gets his $33 billion, the United States will have spent $47 billion in arms and aid on Ukraine since the invasion began. That is, as William Hartung and Ben Freeman noted in the online magazine Responsible Statecraft, almost as much as the entire State Department budget and more than the Biden administration is committing to fight change. climatic.

This is why it is essential to take a step back from the emotions aroused by war and to assess our real security priorities. We have far greater security challenges – including the global pandemic and contagion, climate change, challenges posed by China, and the imperative to rebuild our economy and democracy. Ukraine’s resistance has attracted our attention and our sympathy, but its importance could be better calculated in relation to these other issues.

If Russia conquers the whole of Donbass, as Vladimir Putin’s intention now seems, Moscow may well be more willing to talk about a settlement. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the United States and NATO are expected to decide whether or not to encourage negotiations. Zelensky presented elements of a compromise settlement during the first week of dispute; as the violence continued, his stance hardened. Washington may have to move towards its own self-interest in ending the war, rather than resistance at all costs.

The United States and its allies should now make it clear to Zelensky, Russia, China and India – that is, recognize the geopolitics of a future security architecture – that we welcome a settlement that preserves Ukraine’s sovereignty but also ends the war sooner rather than later. This is our real security interest.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editor and publisher of Nation magazine.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editor and publisher of Nation magazine.


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