December 6, 2023

quo antebellum with a twist

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1 April 2022WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932Status quo antebellum with a twistBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift          WASHINGTON — Russian forces are retreating from northern Ukraine and the prospects for peace are taking an odd turn. This nonsense about repositioning is ridiculous. That is what retreating armies do. They reposition to defend or await reinforcements to once again go on the offensive. Or they reposition to consolidate after abandoning one or more areas. The fact is that the Russians lost the battles for Kyiv and Kharkiv.          Now, Russia is focusing on eastern and southern Ukraine from the Donbas to Crimea, the Russian-speaking region they call Novorussiya. Of course, with the Russians retreating from northern Ukraine, the Ukrainians will do some offensive repositioning east and south, while simultaneously setting the terms for peace.         As presented, those terms are nothing more than a status quo antebellum with a significant twist. Russia keeps Crimea and the portion of the Donbas they have occupied since 2014, and Ukraine will renounce its aspiration to join NATO and declare neutrality, but here is the twist. Ukraine insists that its sovereignty be guaranteed, and President Zelensky named several democracies that in his view could provide that guarantee: Turkey, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland, and Israel.          It's a diverse group, and except for Israel, all are members of NATO. In other words, Ukraine will come under NATO’s shield without joining NATO.         As to neutrality, once again it is a question of words vs. reality. Finland, Sweden, and Austria are non-NATO neutral countries that are anything but neutral. Finland and Sweden even joined NATO naval exercises in the Baltic Sea, and all of them have denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.         All this is nothing more than an off-ramp for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who will claim his forces gained recognition for its control of Donbas and Crimea, and he will say he prevented NATO from expanding into Ukraine. Semantically, he would be correct. Reality would be otherwise.         This scenario is predicated upon battlefield stabilization. However, if Russia succeeds in taking more territory in its southeastern offensive, the peace table dynamics will change in its favor. But the opposite result cannot be ruled out. Ukrainian leadership, courage, tactics, and morale combined with NATO’s state-of-the-art anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry have proven to be highly effective, all the more so when up against Russia’s incompetent leadership, poor tactics, poor morale, and debilitating casualties.         Such an opposite result could possibly see Ukraine retaking all or portions of the Donbas lost to Russia in 2014 and – albeit unlikely – even recapturing all or part of Crimea. This could only happen if Putin falls from power or the Russian Army further collapses.         So, this takes us back to status quo antebellum with a twist: Ukraine wins           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          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND


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