What do you think of these developments? This is not a sudden outpouring of benevolence from Kremlin war criminals. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s diabolical war of aggression continues in the rest of Ukraine, as seen in a missile strike on the government building in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine on Tuesday morning and the continued siege of Mariupol, a port on the Sea of Azov, with heavy loss of civilian life.
Putin simply acknowledges the reality: his forces are losing the war around kyiv. Indeed, following the success of a recent Ukrainian counter-offensive around the capital, Russian troops risk being surrounded. The Russian withdrawal, in short, has nothing to do with increasing “mutual trust” and everything to do with saving its forces from defeat.
The Russians apparently hope to find greater success by focusing on the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. Their plan seems to be to circle Ukrainian troops in the east attacking from both north and south – but that hinges on taking Mariupol, whose defenders resist with a desperate ferocity reminiscent of the Battle of the Alamo.
How should the United States and the rest of the West react to this latest Russian maneuver? By doubling aid to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.
Ukraine’s position today is somewhat reminiscent of Britain’s after the end of the Battle of Britain in the fall of 1940. The Royal Air Force had saved the British Isles from a German invasion. The existential danger had passed. But Britain still faced a major drain on its resources as it fought alone against the Nazi juggernaut. His only hope was help from the United States – “the arsenal of democracy”, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it.
On February 9, 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in a radio address: “We will neither fail nor falter; we will not weaken or weary. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long trials of alertness and effort will wear us out. Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job. The United States responded with the Lend-Lease Act, which provided supplies in “every form imaginable,” from military hardware to canned meat.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is today’s Churchill, and President Biden is today’s FDR. The United States must do at least as much for the Ukrainians as it once did for the British. Both countries, after all, are fighting the same fight for freedom. Both have won the admiration and support of the world.
Since January 2021, the United States has provided Ukraine with $2 billion in aid, including Stinger and Javelin missiles that weigh heavily on Russian planes and tanks. But Zelensky still wants more help – and we should provide it even if it means increasing production of Stingers, Javelins and other ammo that is quickly depleting.
We cannot meet Zelensky’s demand for a no-fly zone without risking war with Russia, but there are many things we can do safely to keep the pressure on the failing Russian war machine. Zelensky wants even tougher sanctions, ranging from disconnecting Russia’s entire financial network from the SWIFT system of interbank transfers to halting sales of Russian oil and gas to Europe. He also wants even more weapon systems, including planes, tanks, multiple rocket launcher systems, and longer-range air defenses like the S-300.
It is ridiculous that the West is reluctant to comply with its demands while Ukraine is fighting a battle for survival against all odds. Biden seems to think supplying MiG-29s would cross a red line with Russia, while French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed similar concerns about supplying tanks. Relax. Putin cannot even win a war against Ukraine; he is not about to start a war with NATO.
The Russian warmonger is on his heels. Now the race is on to see who can rearm and re-equip faster: Ukraine or Russia? The West must ensure that Ukraine has the necessary weapons to continue to assert its military advantage.
A Russian defeat – that is, a retreat to the February 23 lines – is essential to save Ukraine and safeguard the liberal international order. The Ukrainians are ready to fight despite their heartbreaking defeats. We just have to give them the tools to finish the job.