As far back as July 20th, I blogged about the oddity of this war in Ukraine. Since then it’s been proving odder by the day. How so? Well …
Putin is telling the Russian people that the West is waging a proxy war against them. Not so, says the West, since there wouldn’t be a war in Ukraine, proxy or otherwise, had Russia not invaded it in the first place. Fair enough, say I. But then, I’m loath to add, neither is it merely a war in defence of Ukraine. How not? Because the West is making no secret of the fact that it’s providing Ukraine enough not to lose the war, but not enough to win it. And the latter notwithstanding that it could.
So the Russians, for their part, are proudly targeting Ukrainian civilian infrastructure – with the odd collateral ‘non-targeting’ of playgrounds and hospitals as a side-bonus – whereas the Ukrainians have to pretend not to have been involved in the ‘terrorist’ sabotaging of the bridges supplying Russian ordnance.
To be fair, Ukraine can’t go after ambiguous targets in any of the four territories occupied by Russia, since that would no more win hearts and minds than is Russian targeting of ambiguous targets in Ukraine-proper winning the hearts and minds of Ukrainians-proper. But the Russians aren’t trying to win hearts and minds, whereas the Ukrainians have to. Hence the aforementioned asymmetry.
But that doesn’t explain why the Ukrainians aren’t proudly targeting the military and civilian infrastructure on the other side of the border. The received answer is that the West won’t let them. But ‘let’ in what sense? In the sense that it won’t afford them the means to do so? Or in the sense that it’s threatening to abandon the Ukrainians if they do so on their own dime? If the former, then the West is complicit in the destruction of Ukraine. And if the latter? Then the West is complicit in the destruction of Ukraine.
Well not quite. What the West is hoping, it would seem, is that the Russians will have exhausted themselves a week or two before Ukraine becomes an uninhabitable wasteland. Why? So it doesn’t have to put its own soldiers in harm’s way. Call this if you will – in fact I already have – the Chamberlain Rationale.
Some people argue that Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” bought the Allies an extra year to ready themselves for the war to come. Others counter that it afforded the Germans that same opportunity. The doves of 2022 are less worried about history repeating itself because – or so they keep telling our own media – there are signs that Russian soldiers are losing both the means and motivation to fight, such that by next spring the southern and eastern fronts will simply evaporate.
Let’s hope they’re right. But let’s not count on it. Forty-four million Ukrainian refugees are going to put a serious damper on the carrying capacity of the European economy!