With America and Its Allies on the Edge of a Major War, We Find Ourselves Totally Unprepared

A strategy is needed for dealing with a Russian attack, preparing to survive, and ultimately winning a possible conflict.

AP/Susan Walsh, pool
President Biden is flanked by the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, and Prime Minister Sunak at the NATO summit at Vilnius, Lithuania, July 11, 2023. AP/Susan Walsh, pool

As the establishment press is focused on the current political circus, America and our European allies may be on the edge of a big war — for which we are totally unprepared.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, recently warned that if Western-provided weapons struck Russia, Moscow would extract “fatal consequences.”

To be clear: I support Ukraine making direct attacks into Russia. However, we must take this threat from Mr. Ryabkov seriously. That means thinking through a strategy for dealing with a Russian attack, preparing to survive, and ultimately winning a possible conflict.

President Putin continues to signal that he is prepared to wage a long, bloody, and destructive campaign in Ukraine. The current Russian offensive against Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, has degenerated into a terror campaign of targeting civilian facilities and destroying infrastructure.

There is no sign that Mr. Putin is bothered by the scale of Russian losses or the expenditure of Russian resources as the war goes on for far longer than anyone thought possible.

America and our allies have still not come to grips with the reality of an authoritarian alliance of North Korea, Iran, Communist China, and Russia using Ukraine as an opportunity to try out tactics and equipment (much as the Italian Fascists, German Nazis, and Soviet Communists used the Spanish civil war in the 1930s).

Mr. Putin has good reason to believe that if the war can be contained to Ukraine his larger population, economy, and willingness to tolerate casualties will eventually grind down the Ukrainian will to resist. Further, he knows that President Zelensky is much more likely to be replaced than he is.

Mr. Zelensky finds himself fighting for his country’s life and his own political life. The deleterious war is wearing down Mr. Zelensky’s popularity and creating an environment in which attacking Russia inside Russia is his best option. There is also the hope that causing significant pain in Russia itself could change Mr. Putin’s calculus and cause him to back away.

Mr. Zelensky and his western allies have their own delicate calculus, though. Ukraine must find the balance between causing Mr. Putin enough pain to get him to stop — but not so much pain that he escalates the war. Mr. Putin may opt to threaten, or use, weapons of mass destruction to scare the West into backing off.

Faced with this reality, America has no apparent strategy for stopping Mr. Putin without risking a major war. In fact, the current American defense establishment (including the intelligence community and the State Department) has no apparent strategy for anything. The current generation of national security bureaucrats simply lacks the necessary levels of knowledge and preparation (Secretary Blinken is a prime example).

If Mr. Putin used two or three tactical nuclear weapons to cripple the Ukrainian army, we must have a serious American and NATO response. If Mr. Putin announced an ultimatum that threatened the existence of Kyiv to force a truce on Russian terms, we must have a strategy.

Russia has one of the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world — an estimated 4,380 active nuclear weapons and another 1,200 in reserve waiting to be dismantled. Also, Mr. Putin is ruthless and fearless. We must not forget he was a KGB officer for 16 years.

All this danger is made greater by Mr. Putin’s obvious contempt for Mr. Biden. As he sits in the Kremlin watching clips of Mr. Biden stumbling around and seeming uncertain and incoherent, what do you imagine he is thinking?

Further, even though Mr. Biden is now agreeing to measures he previously refused (providing fighter jets, use of certain weapons, direct attacks on Russia, etc.) the measures come too late to make a difference.

We must have a national debate about how the world is changing. We need to develop a strategy for prolonged American security – and instruments capable of implementing that strategy. This strategy certainly includes supporting our western allies.

As our attention is constantly pulled to show trials and absurd political theater, we must remain vigilant and prepared for a potentially serious war. Our enemies are not that far away.


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