Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Consider These 4 Inconvenient Questions as the Ukraine War Moves Forward

| Feb. 22, 2023

As we end the first year of war in Ukraine, no one can doubt who the big winner is — and who the loser. In this 21st-century version of David and Goliath, Kyiv’s defiance of Moscow’s attempt to erase Ukraine from the map has inspired us all. In a just world, this war would end with a total victory for Ukraine that buried Russian President Vladimir Putin in an ignominious grave.

Most public discussion this winter reflects a conviction that Ukraine must — and can — win a decisive victory. But what constitutes a win against a country such as Russia? As we consider the road ahead, we cannot escape the brute fact that Putin commands an arsenal of roughly 6,000 nuclear weapons that could kill us all. Lest we forget, consider his announcement this week that Russia is withdrawing from New START, the last remaining arms control treaty it had with the United States.

As a reality check, it is essential to consider four inconvenient questions.

First: If what is at stake is not just Ukraine’s survival but the future of Europe and even the global order, why are there no American troops fighting on the battlefield alongside brave Ukrainians? Answer: President Biden determined from the outset that the United States “will not fight World War III for Ukraine.” If the United States sent American troops to the battlefield to kill Russian troops, it would quickly become a war between the United States and Russia and could escalate to a nuclear war.

As surely as the leaders of the “evil empire” ever did, Putin commands a nuclear arsenal fully capable of destroying the United States. Serious students of national security know that in this MAD (mutual assured destruction) world, Ronald Reagan’s incandescent insight remains a foundational truth: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” As certainly as it did during nearly half a century of Cold War, America’s own survival requires finding ways to defend and advance our interests without engaging in a direct conflict with Russia.

About This Analysis & Opinions

Consider These 4 Inconvenient Questions as the Ukraine War Moves Forward
For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Allison, Graham.“Consider These 4 Inconvenient Questions as the Ukraine War Moves Forward.” The Washington Post, February 22, 2023.