Non-Proliferation Affairs · Russian Affairs

Russia in Ukraine: Choices and Consequences

Although today at a press conference at the White House, the President didn’t explicitly state that Russian forces had indeed invaded Ukraine, in the past 24 hours. One thing is for certain there are indeed Russian forces on a third “Southern” front in Ukraine, and these forces consist of tanks, heavy artillery, and multiple rocket launchers. The following is a list of choices and the consequences of these choices which the President, in my opinion, should keep in mind when deciding his next move.

The first choice is that he can reassure NATO allies of the U.S.’s commitment to their security under the NATO umbrella and help the Ukrainian army monetarily an order to have them stand up and defend themselves against the Russian incursion.

This choice is probably the most tempting and least chaotic of the choices in the short term but is flawed on two principles. The first is that by not directly engaging Russia with forces on the ground, or in the air this avenue seeks to only embolden the Russian threat to other eastern European countries (including Georgia) and create space for China to begin “settling” it’s claims on south china sea islands, as well as Taiwan. This option is also flawed since by emboldening Russia we are drawing China, and Russia closer together and allowing for other nation states to be scared into seeing them as a viable alternative to the American world order. This option pulls it’s weight however since were able to show that we will protect NATO allies by not actually putting anything on the line (besides money) also by taking a wait and see approach were able to test Russian resolve as they engage in battle against a far inferior but scrappy nonetheless opponent in their own backyard.

The Second Choice: provide American weaponry and support to the Ukrainian government.

The Problem: this choice is flawed on multiple fronts since by providing weaponry to the Ukrainian’s from the U.S. or even from other allies this precipitates a long held belief in the west about the Ukraine that there is a “hole” in their “weaponry pocket”. That is to say whatever we give them expect to end up fully intact and capable in the hands of Russia, China, and anyone elese who has the funds to acquire such technology. And even when not fully functional from battlefield use, these machines of war can be reversed engineered by the Russians and Chinese and could then end up on future battlefields against the west.

The Third Choice: Bomb Russian positions with U.S. drones and warplanes.

The Problem: This choice requires the sort of intestinal fortitude that few in Washington currently have. This choice would have the dimensions of a game of chicken to it. This is because the Russians have capabilities far beyond any enemy we have faced down since the end of the cold war including battleships in black sea ports. So by cherry picking what we would bomb there’s no guarantee that the Russians would likewise cherry pick only drones, and planes, and besides this idea puts our fighting men and women at great risk for little reward. Though it is a choice that truly displays the resolve of our capabilities to our allies throughout the world, however there are better less dangerous ways of doing this.

The Fourth Choice: Deploy a NATO contingent to Kiev.

The Problem: this choice to me actually seems like a good idea since we could display resolve and comfort allies, without actually doing anything. Though by drawing a line in the sand for Russia to cross we are daring them to siege it, the reckoning on this idea should be that if they were willing to go all the way to Kiev now, that means they were going to attack it anyway so it’s a good thing that were already here.

The Choice: do nothing and call for Russia’s ouster from the U.N. Security Council before the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in September.

The Problem: this choice though lacking in muscularity is actually a robust version of diplomacy. This is a choice that I can get behind if only because Russia shot MH-17 out of the sky and is bound to do something similar between now, and the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, though I can’t say that this choice, and this choice alone will comfort our allies in the region.

The Choice: Hold NATO exercises on Russia’s border with fellow NATO allied countries.

The Problem: this is a choice that the administration has already made and though I can’t see it paying dividends of peace, I do agree with the strategy if only to buy some time in the short and long term.

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