Ukraine: The grim reality of Realpolitik
Apparently, Vladimir Putin thought Russia could quickly win a War of Annihilation against Ukraine. But a combination of fierce resistance by the Ukrainian military and civilians plus Russian ineptitude defeated Russiaís War of Annihilation. Literally, at the gates of Kyiv.
The alternative is to wage a War of Attrition, meaning you use your superior population numbers (142 million vs. 44 million), your vast energy resources, your total control over your internal media organs, the inherent efficiency of dictatorship, and the lackluster response from the Western Powers to your advantage.
Meanwhile, you use artillery, missiles, drones, and airpower to grind down the Ukrainian armed forces and the civilian population. Barring outside armed intervention, you have the ability to wage a War of Attrition far into the foreseeable future.
So now, you have a new Objective. Instead of making Ukraine a puppet state of the Russian Federation, you focus your War of Attrition on Luhansk and Donetsk, the two coal-rich provinces in the Donbas Region that borders Russia.
History tells you to have no fear of western economic sanctions. Recall, the U.N. Oil for Food Program allowed Saddam Hussein to continue to sell Iraqi oil greased by kickbacks to France, China, Switzerland, Malaysia, Syria, and Egypt. Even some heating-oil-desperate NATO nations will likely find ways to buy Putinís oil and gas.
Dr. Henry Kissinger recently opined that the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces will probably be occupied by Russia forever and Ukraine should cede the already lost provinces to Russia in return for a peace treaty. Recall, Realpolitik is defined as putting practicality before moral and ideological considerations.
Of course, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cannot endorse Kissingerís Realpolitik right now; however, in return for a permanent ceasefire and, say, an international guarantee of continued freedom of navigation across the Black Sea, President Zelenskyy might come to a different view. If Ukraineís abundant agricultural commodities cannot reach world markets, are they of any value?
But then, President Zelenskyy should be suspicious of international guarantees. Recall, 30 years ago, Ukraine possessed the worldís third-largest nuclear arsenal. Security pledges by the U.S., the U.K. and other western nations induced Ukraine to scrap its nukes. With 20/20 hindsight, howís that working out for Ukraine?
Meanwhile, lurking in the background of all this is the worry that Vladimir Putin (assuming he is not deposed) goes mad and might launch a nuclear attack on Ukraine. If that happens, how should the U.S. and NATO respond?
In his seminal work: Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, Dr. Kissinger asked: "What challenges should be resisted by [nuclear] force? How can they be resisted without bringing disaster to our society?" Sixty-five years later, the answers still depend on the deterrent effect of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Letís face it. Vladimir Putin is likely to get away with his theft of the Donbas Region and the murder of thousands of innocent civilians. President Zelenskyy may have to live with the reality of supposed allies who cannot deliver Justice without risking their own existence.
(In 1964, during Dr. Kissingerís three whirlwind days of lectures and seminars at Ft. Benning, GA, I served as Dr. Kissingerís aide-de-camp. He was enormously demanding, yet likable, and remarkably humorous.)
Suggested reading: Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, by Henry A. Kissinger, Ph.D., 1957.
©2022. William Hamilton.