The West Must Face Reality in Ukraine
US President Joe Biden argues that Russia lacks the “resources and capacity” to sustain a long war in Ukraine. But whereas Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to throw everything he has at this war – a stance that has won him strong popular support – Ukraine’s Western backers are losing their resolve.
MOSCOW – Harvard’s Graham Allison recently commented that, while China “is and will be the fiercest rival a ruling power has ever faced,” the current “demonization” of the country “confuses more than it clarifies.” To “create and sustain a strategy for meeting the China challenge,” Allison insists, the United States “must understand China for what it is” – neither “ten feet tall” nor “on the brink of collapse.” Post-Soviet Russia has never received such consideration.
On the contrary, the US has spent decades caricaturing Russia as both a quintessential villain and a fragile has-been. After Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, then-President Barack Obama dismissed it as a “regional power” displaying its own weakness. And following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the apparent assumption was that Russia – and Vladimir Putin’s regime – would quickly crumble under the weight of Western sanctions.
Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was fueled by delusion. But that does not mean that the West’s assessment of the situation was sensible. On the contrary, most Western observers seemed to be able to imagine just two scenarios: either Putin takes Kyiv in a matter of days, turning Ukraine into a Kremlin puppet, or Russia is quickly defeated, forcing Putin to withdraw his troops and recognize Ukraine’s territorial integrity.