US and Allies Raise Stakes, Turning Putin’s Ukraine Fantasy into Risky Nightmare – Opinion

On Monday 24 January, news reported that President Biden had begun to place US troops under high alert. They may have been deploying to Eastern Europe. The US will symmetrically deploy troops to the West of Ukraine against Russian forces.

Nine hundred miles eaSt of the Cold War’s Fulda Gap, Ukraine has become the 21st Century version of the contest arena for the latest test of wills in Europe’s long history of power struggles between the children of the Caucuses.

At the moment, both the United States of America and the European Union are attempting to make Ukraine into something more than a potential place for Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek his next Crimean annexed. This would be a huge political and economic risk for Russia.

This risk increased dramatically with the arrival of anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapon shipments trickling into Ukraine from neighbouring countries. Also, advisers were sent to help train approximately 280,000 soldiers of the Ukrainian Army.

The US intelligence continues to reduce risk during the Russian build-up. The New York Times reported that surveillance aircraft have been flying to monitor both ground forces as well as to determine if Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal is part of Mr. Putin’s plans for conquest.

US officials have assessed the US’s risk and approved an unprecedented response. Putin must have no doubt that the West has indicated to Ukraine that Ukraine is now de facto a NATO member. It has been a complete shift in the game.

This puts a strain on Putin’s strategy of intimidating Ukraine as he massed up to 100,000 Russian troops east of Ukraine in December from as far away as the eastern frontier of Russia. Putin has deployed nearly a third his army as a demonstration of force.

However, time does not favor Mr. Putin during these deployments. It is costly and ultimately degrades the readiness to fight. The disruption to training and maintenance caused by a prepositioning of equipment far from troops also degrades readiness.

In contrast, NATO’s support to Ukraine’s defense will grow in effectiveness as time drags on. As 2022 progresses, NATO’s support for Ukraine’s defense will increase in effectiveness. In order to deter invasion, attacker/defender force ratios will start to equalize and stabilize.

Trying to Stay in the “Grey Zone”

If the US and NATO strategy succeeds, the conflict goes back to what’s called “Grey Zone” warfare which is dominated by angry and animated economic, political, and military posturing.

In a “Grey Zone” fight, the Western countries, and their willingness to adapt to the realities of a protracted economic divorce from Russia, will be tested. Because of the EU’s dependence on Russian energy pipelines, I anticipate that one of the costs to the West will be having to reset its attitude towards climate change. Europe is dependent on electricity and fuel. This means that if they can’t get Russian oil and gas, they’re going to have to invest in things like nuclear energy and even facilitating alternative pipelines such as the Iran’s dream of supplying Europe with gas via a Fertile Crescent route. The US too may have to consider gearing up to domestic oil production as Western Europe’s demand changes the global supply chain matrix. Yes, what Mr. Putin is doing will have those kinds of “collateral” effects. Nothing changes “woke” like waking up and smelling the coffee. It is the next news cycle.

More important in the present for Mr. Putin’s consideration is that the nations of both NATO and the former Warsaw Pact are voting with their feet with regards to his vision. They support the Ukrainians. That’s a cultural reality that Russia, with or without Mr. Putin’s leadership cannot be ignored forever. Putin’s war on the European minds has ended, and that is quite frankly.  His notion that “Ukrainians are one people, one country” is correct. But it’s not a Russian fantasy, it’s a European dream. Every week adds to these cultural ties.

It is wealth that matters when it comes long-distance siege craft. Russia is wealthier than Europe. The United States has more wealth than Europe, which helps to sustain its existence. It is less expensive to maintain and build a defense for Ukraine than it would be to invade the country.

Modern battlefield technology favors the defense, as demonstrated in Syria’s February 2018, when US defenders destroyed a Russian army column.  In a war, you’ll eventually run out of S.400 air defense sites and air superiority attrition will result in Ukraine becoming airspace enforced by Western air power with local government invitation, even if Russia and China veto UN Security Council resolutions.

The bottom line is that time is not on Mr. Putin’s side.  Personally, I’d be exploring ways to defuse the situation before internal confidence within Russia for his aggressive policy becomes his own political liability.

As noted in my previous article last week, “Analysis: Putin’s Dangerous Ukraine Brinksmanship Fantasy Needs to Stop“, I continue to recommend that the West ponder alternative exits for Russia from the predicament it has cornered itself into; including, but not limited to, offering Russia a path to becoming a full member of the Western alliance with stringent conditions. Yes, I know it’s a wild card and I’ve been told such a thing is impossible. It was once said to me that the Cold War could never be ended, but it has happened.

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