As I awake each morning, I pick up an iPad and go to Google News. I look for news about Putin’s war in Ukraine. I hope for a miracle and an end to the bombing. My fear is that the war has expanded. I dread the possibility of a report that a nuclear or biological weapon has been used or that somehow the U.S. has shot down a Russian aircraft or vice versa.
The war is now entering a crucial stage. Kyiv is surrounded. Russia has begun bombing military bases in Western Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainians flee the country every day. And Putin is getting more desperate. The sanctions are working. The Russian economy is grinding to a halt. The assets of Russian oligarchs are being seized. Political rhetoric is becoming more reckless.
There is a lot to cause us worry. Speculation that Putin is insane continues. Amateur historians look to history to predict what Putin might do next. Nobody suggests that the Russian dictator will admit he made a mistake, apologize, and go home. To the contrary, experts suggest that Putin desperately needs to “win” quickly and may be willing to kill thousands more people to do so.
Amid the confusion about what Putin will do, we see political discord at home. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recommended assassination. Mitt Romney (R-UT) urged President Biden to give Ukraine the MIG-29s it wants from Poland. Should this “advice” be given in press conferences and on twitter?
U.S. public opinion is solidly behind Ukraine, but against the type of military commitment that may be necessary to prevent Russia from murdering President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and installing a puppet in his place. I sense that the public just wants the war to be over and for things to return to normal.
I share that desire but know it is unrealistic. I fear that things will never return to what I regard as normal. The sheer brutality of the war has shattered my image of a world that had put world wars behind it. I fear that if Putin wins, he will inspire other dictators to turn to military force to build their empires or achieve other goals. China and Taiwan come to mind. If the U.S. was not willing to engage directly with Russia, how likely is a military response to a Chinese invasion, especially if the war in Ukraine has not ended?
I am troubled that an “end game” has not yet become clear. I am more troubled by the fact that any end to the war that includes Ukraine surviving as an independent country is rapidly becoming inconceivable. I hope I am wrong.
So, what should the U.S. do? For now, we are doing the right thing by not engaging Russia directly. Biden is right in telling us that imposing a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine, an area the size of Texas, would ignite World War III. He is also right in forcefully stipulating that the U.S. and NATO will respond militarily to any Russian attack on any NATO country. Biden, and Congress, are also right to offer arms and other military assistance (short of a troop commitment) to Ukraine in the hopes that Russia will somehow be forced to abandon its dream of reincorporating Ukraine as part of Russia.
America does not want another war. That is why I am troubled by those who criticize Biden for not having a more forceful response to Putin.
In endorsing current Biden/U.S. policy, I am not endorsing Russia’s war. Instead, I wish the worst for Russia. My heart goes out to Ukraine and its people. They are caught in the middle of the dilemma of a world that abhors Putin’s aggression and fears another world war.
This war is an ugly situation that is likely to get worse. The world needs a miracle. I pray we get one.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and other subjects.