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U.S.-Ukraine Security Entanglement Risks Forever War

Українська

By Alex Little

Why would Russia tolerate a hostile power on its doorstep?

Should the United States guarantee Ukraine’s security? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed such an arrangement recently, and severalEuropean countries, including France and Germany, have already agreed to ten-year security commitments. While a mutual security agreement entailing“enduring support to Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity, rebuilding its economy, and pursuing Ukrainian integration into the Euro-Atlantic community” may appear necessary for Washington and Kiev in the short term, the deal will perpetuate the most devastating war on the European continent since 1945 and prove to be a liability for the United States.

Despite Washington’s constraints on being able to assist Ukraine, this does not stop American legislators from ignoring these realities by promising eternal support to Ukraine until its eventual total victory over Russia. Making promises that cannot be fulfilled hurts Ukraine’s future and discourages it from pursuing necessary diplomacy.

While some members of Congress have fueled delusional aspirations in Ukraine, policymakers must acknowledge that Washington’s military resources are finite. Eric Gomez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, highlights that, although a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan is a more significant strategic imperativedue to the dire security and economic consequences for the United States, the current administration is allocating too many resources to the war in Ukraine. Furthermore, the overlap between weapons sent to Ukraine and those needed in Taiwan to defend itself is worsening.

To mitigate this issue, Washington must articulate to Kiev its inability to perpetually supply Ukraine with the weapons it needs for long-term defense. The United States also needs to incentivize other NATO members, which are well-equipped to defend themselves, to step up their military investment while pivoting to the co-production of weapons with Taiwan. Doing so will bolster Taiwan’s domestic defense industrial base to produce and stockpile asymmetric armaments and munitions essential for its defense.

The latest U.S. aid package is unlikely to swing the pendulum of the Russo-Ukrainian War in Kiev’s favor. As a professor of military history at the University of Calgary, Alexander Hill stated the $61 billion aid package “is extremely unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the eventual outcome of the war” and “will certainly prolong the bloodshed.”

As Russia’s economy has been geared toward the war effort in Ukraine, the differential in warfighting capabilities between the two sides is widening. Hundreds of thousands of Russians have found lucrative employment in the Russian military–industrial complex as total defense spending has risen to an estimated 7.5 percent of GDP. Russia currently fires five times as many artillery shells as the Ukrainians, a stark imbalance that demands attention. Additionally, Russia’s industrial base has surged throughout the war, as its production grew by 3.5 percent in 2023 despite Western efforts to hinder it.

In comparison, American aid to Ukraine will likely only be able to fortify Ukrainian defenses and prevent Russian gains in the short term. Logistical hurdles mean that the impact of the assistance will be far from immediate. Therefore, any aspirations of utilizing the aid to reclaim Russian-captured territory are unrealistic.

Moreover, Ukraine may not be able to receive a consistent amount of aid from the United States in the future. “Everyone involved in this conflict should treat this aid package as though it's the last one and plan accordingly because that could be,” Stimson Center senior fellow Kelly Grieco stated during a recent discussion panel.

Considering the current realities, Ukraine, with U.S. support, should capitalize on exercising its diplomatic leverage before the situation worsens. Through diplomatic measures, Ukraine can enjoy what it has successfully preserved throughout the two-year war: its national independence. Kiev has denied Moscow from its initial aim to subjugate Ukraine as a vassal state. Russia has considerable battlefield advantages, but there remain incentives for Moscow to engage in diplomacy, especially if it wants to play a legitimate role in stabilizing the security architecture in Europe and engage in trade with the West.

A Ukrainian embrace of neutrality will be critical in any future peace agreement. Doing so will signal to Moscow that Washington and Kiev are serious about maintaining peace long-term. Finland is a successful example of a country that adopted neutrality after a three-month conflict with the Soviet Union. Although Finland conceded a portion of its territory, after several decades of neutrality before joining NATO last year, Finland has enjoyed one of the world’s highest per capita GDPs, scores 100 percent on Freedom House’s Democracy Index , and has one of the happiest populations. Ukraine can follow a similar path, significantly aiding its reconstruction efforts.

The United States is remarkably secure, with large oceans to its west and east and peaceful neighbors to its north and south. The brutal Russo-Ukrainian War is tragic yet carries few security risks for the United States. Rather than fueling the fire on the European continent, encouraging Ukrainian diplomacy with Russia, shifting burdens to able allies, and reorienting focus on more critical matters will serve the United States well in genuinely pursuing its own interests.          

Alex Little is an M.S. graduate of Georgia Tech and specializes in Russian and Central Asian affairs.         

© 2022 The American Conservative,

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