September 29, 2023

antecedent in Ukraine

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
No antecedent in Ukraine
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — Perhaps there is some overriding secret reason for President Biden’s reluctance to send Ukraine the military equipment it needs, but such a decision is not readily apparent save for one reason: fear of Russia.
          Escalation is the word repeatedly heard, but it has become a word devoid of an antecedent, an if-this-then-that word. In the current context it is supposed to convey the idea that if the U.S, and its NATO allies provide this tank, plane, or ammunition, then Russia will respond in some unspecified manner. However, if there is no response, there is no antecedent. And there will be no response.
          Russia has not only failed to defeat the much weaker Ukraine, it is itself being defeated. How, then, is it conceivable that Russia would consider or be capable of engaging NATO in a conventional war. This leaves the only other possible threat, the nuclear threat, but this threat has existed for seven decades, and it has been defanged by the concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction). Any other connotation can only be described as nuclear blackmail, a concept that has never been employed and never could be because once any nation cowers to such a threat there would be no end to it.
          In the entire history of nuclear brinksmanship, only the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 came to the brink. That event established a redline: Soviet nuclear weapons would not be tolerated in the Western Hemisphere. Other redlines became self-evident: an attack against a U.S. ally is an attack against the U.S. Yet even this redline has been violated without triggering the use of nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union waged a surrogate war through North Vietnam against American-allied South Vietnam. The U.S. did likewise through surrogates against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
          In short, nuclear weapons have made the world safe for conventional war. This is why Russia could attack Ukraine without fear of NATO nuclear – or even conventional – involvement.
          Nuclear weapons truly are a last resort to protect the homeland of a nuclear power, and even then there is a question as to their use. If Russia, for example, were to invade NATO member Poland, would NATO respond with nuclear weapons? Possibly, not necessarily probably, which is why NATO has built up a large conventional force.
          What is true for NATO is true for Russia, and Russia has proven itself incapable of posing a conventional threat, which means in the extreme the commitment of NATO forces to Ukraine would not ignite a nuclear war. But this is in the extreme, and the extreme need not be tested because the alternative of surrogate war is sufficient providing sufficient aid is provided to the surrogate: Ukraine.
          So, it is nonsense to discuss fear of escalation if the U.S. provides M1 Abrams tanks or long range HIMARS rockets or sophisticated planes or Germany offers Leopard II tanks, etc., because Russia’s response will be a nonresponse.
          Providing a surrogate with a surrogate’s needs is not an escalation if nothing is escalated, and if nothing follows there can be no antecedent.
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2023 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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