What Would 'Victory' Look Like in Ukraine?

AP Photo/Vadim Zamirovsky

Joe Biden has accused Vladimir Putin and Russia of “war crimes.” He’s accused Putin of committing “genocide.” He has sent billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine — so much that Russia has issued a warning to the U.S. to cease sending sophisticated arms to Kyiv.


These are extremely serious charges. Ten Nazis were executed for committing war crimes in 1945.

But the real question is, what will Biden do about it? Any blithering idiot can accuse Putin of “genocide” — even though the UN’s definition of “genocide” has not been met. What will “victory” look like in Ukraine? When a Nuremberg-type tribunal hands down death sentences to Russian generals? Or will it look murkier and have less clarity?

Daniel Henninger wonders if we’re even in this war to win.

Mr. Biden’s off-handed remark that the Putin invasion is a genocide against Ukrainians triggered speculation about the president’s reason for invoking it. Was Mr. Biden merely mentioning a word he overheard in a national security meeting or signaling a new direction in U.S. policy?

One interpretation is that the random reference to genocide was meant to increase pressure on nations sitting on the sidelines. French President Emmanuel Macron worried about an “escalation of words.” Don’t provoke Putin.

Still, Mr. Macron indirectly raised the right question: Where exactly are we going in Ukraine? Mr. Biden’s oh-by-the-way rhetoric again puts U.S. policy in a frustrating zone of unclarity. Is it possible U.S. policy is in fact inching toward helping the Ukrainians drive the Russians out of their country—victory—or is the administration working toward a Cold War containment of Russia, with a carved-up Ukraine effectively on the other side of a new Iron Curtain?


There is some logic for the doctrine of “strategic ambiguity” — especially when facing off with a nuclear power. But it’s a political loser. Biden’s “ambiguity” is more a matter of not having made up his mind where he wants to go with U.S. assistance to Ukraine rather than any grand strategic plan that would kick Putin out of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s war is described as the biggest military event in Europe since World War II. A more relevant contextual setting is to understand this is the first war ever fought inside the fully developed world of social media.

Elon Musk’s war with Twitter is news, so to speak, because he has some 82 million followers whose effects ripple outward. Ukraine is both a shooting war and a global social-media phenomenon. Social media allows millions—a crowd—to form up for any reason. As of two months ago, that crowd is fighting globally for Ukraine.

Before February, it was an article of faith among prospective U.S. presidential candidates, especially Republicans, that they were obliged to respect America’s desire to turn inward and away from the world. Suddenly, some 87% in a recent CBS poll say stopping Russian aggression is in U.S. interests.

“Stopping Russia” is one thing. Sending U.S. boys and girls to die in a far-off land is quite another. How far should U.S. support go? This new stage of the war that’s beginning in the East will be on far friendlier terrain for Russia. They may very well roll up Ukrainian forces and make quick work of them.


If Ukraine gets into trouble, is Biden just going to stand by and watch the slaughter? This is where Biden’s actions can’t catch up with his mouth. In trying to be a “wartime leader,” Biden has chased himself into a corner. Every time he opens his mouth, Biden sounds like he’s issuing a threat. This is reckless and dangerous.

And Putin may not do him the favor of bailing him out of his mess.



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