WASHINGTON — Speaking of the seven-week war in Ukraine unleashed by Vladimir Putin, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns us to expect a war that will last for years.
“I think this is a very protracted conflict…measured in years,” Milley told Congress. “I don’t know about a decade, but at least years, of course.”
As a first response, Milley said, we should build more military bases in Eastern Europe and start rotating US troops in and out.
Yet it sounds like a prescription for a Cold War II that America should be avoiding, not fighting. For Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, while a stated goal of US policy, is not a vital US interest to justify the risk of a calamitous war with Russia.
The proof of this political reality lies in the political facts.
For 40 years of the Cold War, Ukraine was an integral part of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Bush I warned Ukrainian secessionists, who wanted to sever ties with Russia, not to engage in such “suicidal nationalism”.
And although we brought 14 new nations into NATO after 1991, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama never brought Ukraine.
Indeed, during the seven weeks of this war, President Joe Biden refused to transfer to Ukraine the 28 MIG-29s that Poland offered to make available, if the United States replaced the Polish MIGs with American fighters.
Biden has warned this could trigger a collision with Russia that could lead to World War III. And he’s not going to risk a Third World War that could escalate into a nuclear war – for Ukraine.
What is Biden saying in denying MIGs to Ukraine?
That preventing Russia from amputating the Donbass, Crimea and Ukraine’s Black Sea coast is not such a vital American interest that it is worth risking a war with Russia. Ukraine is not just outside NATO; it is outside the perimeter of the vital American interests justifying the war.
This crisis in Ukraine raises the larger question:
For whom and why should the United States go to war with a nation that has a nuclear arsenal larger than ours, but does not directly threaten us?
Currently, war hawks and Beltway neoconservatives are bristling with demands that the United States send MIGs to Ukraine, along with the S-300 air defense system and anti-ship missiles to sink the Russian fleet of the black Sea.
They tell us that Putin is bragging and bluffing when he suggests that Moscow might use tactical nuclear weapons rather than accept defeat and humiliation in Ukraine.
Yet, looking at a cost-benefit analysis of continuing this war, it would seem that the sooner it ends, the better.
Who would Milley’s likely winners and losers be for? “protracted conflict” it is going to last “at least years for sure”?
The biggest losers would be the Ukrainian nation and people.
Already, in seven weeks, 10 million Ukrainians have been uprooted from their homes, and 4 million of them have fled the country. That’s a quarter of the nation uprooted and a tenth lost to Ukraine.
Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians died resisting the invasion. Thousands may have been murdered. Cities like Kharkiv were horribly damaged, with Mariupol on the Sea of Azov destroyed.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s willingness to negotiate with Putin after the proven atrocities and to agree to the temporary occupation of part of Ukraine suggests that he knows that from now on Ukraine, which won the first battles, could gradually lose the longest war.
Indeed, if the huge known losses for Ukraine come from the first seven weeks of fighting, what will be the losses of a second week, or a third, on the bloody road of Milley’s long war?
Putin’s Russia is a second loser in this war.
The initial invasion failed to capture kyiv or Kharkiv. The Russian army around kyiv left and, it seems, several thousand Russian soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing.
The Russian economy is suffering from severe sanctions.
Yet over 80% of the Russian people still support Putin and his war. And Russia’s renewed push into Donbass and to take Ukraine’s Black Sea coast from Crimea to Odessa is not lost yet.
But while Ukraine and Russia have suffered greatly, the United States and NATO have barely suffered. Neither does China, which is the main beneficiary when a bleeding and isolated Russia goes in search of support.
What Americans need to worry about is the long war that General Milley predicts, and the possibility that Russia’s continued hemorrhage will lead it to resort to tactical nuclear weapons to end the casualties and to humiliation and prevent outright defeat.
So the sooner this war ends, the better for us and our friends — even if that means having to talk to the man Biden can’t help but call a war criminal and call for his prosecution.
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Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broken a President and Divided America Forever.” To learn more about Patrick Buchanan and read articles by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.