Anne Applebaum reports on the atypically exciting annual Munich security conference:
Clearly, the real debate about Ukraine and Russia has yet to begin, by which I don’t just mean the “should we arm Ukraine?” debate. This is an appealing discussion, not least because it appears to pit the United States (Mars) against Europe (Venus). But fundamentally, it’s a red herring. The armaments debate is an argument about short-term tactics, not long-term strategy — and it ignores the real nature of the Russian game.
Before last year, eastern Ukraine had no history of ethnic conflict. Well-armed “separatists” emerged on the scene only when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered them there. The “civil war” that ensued is an artificial conflict, run by Russian security and enhanced by a sophisticated pan-European disinformation campaign. It will last as long as the Russians want it to last. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, has told the Wall Street Journal that the Russians have deployed their most modern air defense and electronic warfare systems, weapons “way above and beyond” anything a rebel army could deploy.
The point of the war is not to achieve a victory. The point is to prevent the emergence of anything resembling a prosperous, European Ukraine, because such a state would pose an ideological threat to Putinism.
Read the whole thing.
We can either reach an accommodation with Putin over Ukraine, or we can act decisively to remove Russian forces from Ukraine — which at this point would likely mean a real shooting war. Confused half-measures like NATO has indulged in so far only further Putin’s interests and decrease his risk aversion elsewhere.
NATO, as I’ve had to remind you here more than once, despite all of its latent firepower is no longer a serious military alliance.