The Russian war of aggression against the Ukraine is now three months old. Prepare for a very long grind.
Russian forces are now more successful having concentrated in much narrower areas. The idea of Ukraine pushing back Russia to original borders is now unthinkable.
But neither side are going to give up, neither side will stop, neither side want peace talks.
The United States isn’t going to achieve regime change in Russia because it doesn’t have the power to, and Europe is staying remarkably resolute too.
So this is going to go on for a long time.
Nor will the United States put boots on the ground, or enforce a No Fly Zone, or directly break Russia’s port blockade of Ukraine, when it would mean going up against a nuclear armed power.
Even if the two sides grind out to a stalemate with slowly shifting borders as appears to be happening, it isn’t going to end up like World War 1 in which either side completely collapses from exhaustion. Russia is doing great out of oil prices and has strong customers, and Ukraine will keep getting propped up by the United States and other military contributors.
So the multi-year long view needs talking about.
It is still likely that Finland and Sweden will be on the path to join NATO and Turkey’s objections are hammered into something the Swedes and Finns can live with and implement.
It is likely that global production of wheat, sunflower oil, and coal will be deeply lowered from Ukraine.
It is likely that the intelligence the United States and allies provided to Ukraine will enable effective aggressive defence by the Ukraine, but the cost in military and civilian lives will rise into the hundreds of thousands.
It is a strong opportunity for President Biden and others to re-state that international borders cannot be altered by force. With the war likely to drag all through this year, Biden will be turning himself more a more to his foreign affairs and Commander in Chief role since the Democrats are not likely to have control of the Senate or Congress from mid-November.
Biden would then be free to focus on China at both a trade and geostrategic level in particular reinforcing common ground with China of also sustaining internal territorial integrity. Biden has an opportunity to persuade China that they must agree at the United Nations to denounce Russia since it is altering international boundaries by force. Biden must change Xi’s mind and neither must be seen to do so. Biden needs to do a Nixon and front to China direct.
The EU’s willing cutoff of much Russian gas and most oil is a singularly powerful goal and one of the most important climate change moments we will ever have. Blunting the weapons of a future Russian economic war while continuing to enforce sanctions will continue to diminish the economy of Russia. Sure hope their energy systems can cope with another winter’s load come November, because on that rides much political support.
The EU and United States and allies like New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, will need to continue massive financial support for the Ukraine to keep their society intact with basic goods and subsidies. Every one of those countries needs to accept more Ukrainian displaced refugees into their countries.
NATO could at least provide Ukraine with aircraft or heavy drones to sink the Russian blockade of its ports, protect merchant ships, and get the grain exports flowing again.
Russia is shortly going to start looking like an occupying force with a stable but hostile “boundary”. Something like the boundary to North Korea, with no actual peace settlement.
The long term test is for the EU to show how prosperous bordering members can be even if they are not members. Everything must be done to ensure Ukraine doesn’t give up.
Every one of the current supporter countries of Ukraine must forcefully make the case on every platform they can find that grisly and unprovoked invasions make the entire world less prosperous, often beset by famine and blackouts, and if you want a world framed by rules not tanks, here’s all the trade and grants and aid and prosperity you can handle: make the case for a multilateral and cooperative world once more.
For the Ukraine itself there is nothing but pitiless grind with lots of outside help.
But as a long term human morality tale in the use and benefit of international unity, I actually have a lot of confidence in current world leaders – including our own – that support for Ukraine can turn the long term view to good.