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The Widening War

Posted on Wednesday, March 9, 2022
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by Outside Contributor
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The public needs a straight talk about what’s happening in Eastern Europe.

President Joe Biden and the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson need to level with their own countrymen about the rising risk of war against Russia. The public’s getting double talk — praise for the Ukrainians’ courage but also empty promises that what’s happening in Ukraine will stay in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised Sunday that “President Biden has been clear that we are not going to get into a war with Russia.”

Johnson wrote in the New York Times on Monday that “this is not a NATO conflict, and it will not become one.”

That’s ridiculous. The U.K. and the U.S. can’t make that guarantee. There are too many tripwires leading to broad-scale war.

American eyes are on gruesome television images of Ukrainians huddled in the basements of bombed hospitals or running down snowy roads with children in their arms to escape Russian missile fire.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin is eyeing territory beyond Ukraine, including Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, all NATO allies once under Soviet domination.

These countries and five other NATO members have already triggered Article 4 of the NATO agreement, calling for consultations about the serious Russian threat.

In response, the U.S. and other NATO allies are moving ground troops and tanks into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. News broke Monday that the U.S. is considering supplying air defense systems to these three Baltic countries.

On Monday, Blinken also pledged to Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, that “we will defend every inch of NATO territory if it comes under attack.”

Putin himself is laying tripwires for a NATO conflict. Sunday, he warned that foreign countries like Romania that are allowing Ukrainian fighter pilots to use their airstrips may be viewed by Moscow as parties to the conflict. Putin could say the same about Poland’s announced decision to lend fighter planes to Ukraine.

Putin even labeled economic sanctions “akin to a declaration of war.”

Cowed by Putin’s warnings, the U.S. and NATO allies refuse Ukraine’s requests for a no-fly zone. Blinken concedes that without NATO pilots fighting off Russian bombers, Ukrainians face bloodier days ahead as the Russians “keep grinding things down,” leveling city after city. A high price to pay, and for what?

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda warned Blinken, “if we want to avoid the Third World War,” Putin must be stopped in Ukraine. Nauseda is worried his own country will be next, but he nevertheless is driving home a fundamental truth. It won’t be easier to stop Putin after he crushes Ukraine.

It’s never easier to stop a bully once he’s allowed to win a fight.

Though Ukraine is not part of NATO, it’s arguable that the U.S. and U.K. owe Ukraine more than they’re doing. In 1994, they pressured newly independent Ukraine into surrendering its nuclear weapons to Russia under the Budapest Memorandum with tacit assurances — now conveniently forgotten — that they would respond if Russia threatened them.

History aside, the question is, how long can Putin be allowed to continue snuffing out innocent lives in Eastern Europe? Russia’s economy is tanking as corporations pull out, and the half-hearted sanctions already imposed by the West take effect. If oil and gas exports were also banned, Bloomberg Economics predicts, the Russian economy would contract a devastating 14% this year. Russia may be more vulnerable for now than at another time.

Is NATO ready to fight this weakened foe? Despite neglecting the Russian threat for years, NATO outspends Russia on armaments 15 to 1 and outnumbers Russian ground forces 4 to 1, according to retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander.

War is a last resort.

Now is the time for the Biden administration to talk honestly about what it already knows is true. The U.S. and NATO allies may be forced into a war with Russia, not because we choose to go to war but because a tyrant leaves us no choice.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey.

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Kim
Kim
2 years ago

(I’m copying my comment from another article on this subject.)

We are all in with Ukraine. Most of the free world is all in with Ukraine. I don’t understand why biden is resisting giving “all” to the Ukrainians.

I’m not talking about tens of thousands of troops (although that would put an immediate end to this crisis), but arms and supplies and whatever it takes for the Ukrainians to fight this war for themselves. That’s all they asked for. Putin’s war is not going well for him, and this is a most opportune moment to put this b-word out of contention. If this country, England, the EU, and others who care about sovereign nations and maintaining peace did what it takes, this would end soon. Someone has to stand up to the bullies of the world, and we have the means to do it. But without strong leadership, we’ll see lots of little tyrants popping up in all corners of the globe. You might disagree and prefer to stay on the sidelines, but we can do this. Acting soon and decisively will save thousands or perhaps millions of lives in the long run. But, of course, there’s the threat of nuclear weapons…that’s the sticky part that gives me pause.

Biden has a habit of offering too little too late. Only yesterday, he finally banned Russian oil or gas entering the U.S. Meanwhile, for several months, Putin has been organizing his forces and tanks, and lining up along the Ukraine border. Sanctions…big deal. Biden should have frozen Russian assets and stopped oil imports long ago. He also should have allowed American drillers to supply the market and drive down the price of oil, which would have prevented Putin from funding his dreams of reestablishing the U.S.S.R. Biden is the biggest enabler in Putin’s advances.

It is inspiring to know the sons and husbands in Ukraine remained in the country to battle a bully who is out of touch with the sentiments of most of his countrymen. I heard about a vodka producer (Kruto Vodka) in Austin TX, Ukrainian by birth, who is going over to defend the country, as many others are doing. President Zelensky has set a great example of patriotism and leadership, and I hope he and his country succeed in keeping their country intact.

Max
Max
2 years ago

If you get the chance, there was a 7 minute news clip about the new “Biden Lockdown” on FOX NEWS that was interesting although the info presented was not entirely new.

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 years ago

Putin is a fierce nationalist refuses to join the team of which he is not the captain refuses to follow the script not written by him might that be the problem by the way what is happening on our southern boarder,what happened to covid crime and cops being killed and assaulted daily had some miracle happened

Kim
Kim
2 years ago

(I’m copying my comment from another article on this subject.)

We are all in with Ukraine. Most of the free world is all in with Ukraine. I don’t understand why biden is resisting giving “all” to the Ukrainians.

I’m not talking about tens of thousands of troops (although that would put an immediate end to this crisis), but arms and supplies and whatever it takes for the Ukrainians to fight this war for themselves. That’s all they asked for. Putin’s war is not going well for him, and this is a most opportune moment to put this b-word out of contention. If this country, England, the EU, and others who care about sovereign nations and maintaining peace did what it takes, this would end soon. Someone has to stand up to the bullies of the world, and we have the means to do it. But without strong leadership, we’ll see lots of little tyrants popping up in all corners of the globe. You might disagree and prefer to stay on the sidelines, but we can do this. Acting soon and decisively will save thousands or perhaps millions of lives in the long run. But, of course, there’s the threat of nuclear weapons…that’s the sticky part that gives me pause.

Biden has a habit of offering too little too late. Only yesterday, he finally banned Russian oil or gas entering the U.S. Meanwhile, for several months, Putin has been organizing his forces and tanks, and lining up along the Ukraine border. Sanctions…big deal. Biden should have frozen Russian assets and stopped oil imports long ago. He also should have allowed American drillers to supply the market and drive down the price of oil, which would have prevented Putin from funding his dreams of reestablishing the U.S.S.R. Biden is the biggest enabler in Putin’s advances.

It is inspiring to know the sons and husbands in Ukraine remained in the country to battle a bully who is out of touch with the sentiments of most of his countrymen. I heard about a vodka producer (Kruto Vodka) in Austin TX, Ukrainian by birth, who is going over to defend the country, as many others are doing. President Zelensky has set a great example of patriotism and leadership, and I hope he and his country succeed in keeping their country intact.

Max
Max
2 years ago

If you get the chance, there was a 7 minute news clip about the new “Biden Lockdown” on FOX NEWS that was interesting although the info presented was not entirely new.

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 years ago

Putin is a fierce nationalist refuses to join the team of which he is not the captain refuses to follow the script not written by him might that be the problem by the way what is happening on our southern boarder,what happened to covid crime and cops being killed and assaulted daily had some miracle happened

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