Year Two of the Ukraine War Is Going to Get Scary

Year Two of the Ukraine War Is Going to Get Scary. By Thomas Friedman. Even the US neo-cons are getting worried about the Ukrainian war.

[Americans] know at some deep level that the world we live in today is tilted the way it is because of American power. That doesn’t mean we have always used our power wisely, nor could we have succeeded without allies. But to the extent that we have used our power wisely and in concert with our allies, we have built and protected a liberal world order since 1945, which has been hugely in our interest — economically and geopolitically.

It’s costly for everyone when big countries can invade and annex little countries, because everyone must spend their budgets arming to the maximum:

This is an order in which autocratic great powers like Nazi Germany, imperial Japan or modern Russia and China are not free to simply devour their neighbors. And this is an order where more democracies than ever have been able to flourish, and where free markets and open trade have lifted more people out of poverty than at any time in the history of the world. It’s not always perfect — but in a world where perfect is never on the menu, this order has produced almost 80 years without a Great Power war, the kind of war that can destabilize the whole world.

Upholding this liberal order is the underlying logic that brought the United States and its NATO allies to help Kyiv reverse Putin’s “marry me or I’ll kill you” invasion of Ukraine — the first such onslaught by one country in Europe against another since the end of World War II.

So how’s it going for the US in Ukraine?

Now the bad news. For the first year of this war, America and its allies have had it relatively easy. We could send arms, aid and intelligence — as well as impose sanctions on Moscow — and the Ukrainians would do the rest, ravaging Putin’s army and pushing his forces back into Eastern Ukraine.

I don’t think year two is going to be so easy.

Putin, it’s now clear, has decided to double down, mobilizing in recent months possibly as many as 500,000 fresh soldiers for a new push on the war’s first anniversary. Mass matters in war — even if that mass contains a large number of mercenaries, convicts and untrained conscripts.

Putin is basically saying to Biden: I can’t afford to lose this war and I will pay any price and bear any burden to ensure that I come away with a slice of Ukraine that can justify my losses. How about you, Joe? How about your European friends? Are you ready to pay any price and bear any burden to uphold your “liberal order”?

This is going to get scary. And because we have had nearly a generation without a Great Power war, a lot of people have forgotten what made this long era of Great Power peace possible. …

US policy now:

There are also many voices on the left, though, who are legitimately asking: Is it really worth risking World War III to drive Russia all the way out of Eastern Ukraine? Haven’t we hurt Putin so badly by now that he won’t be trying something like Ukraine again soon? Time for a dirty deal?

Since I suspect that this question will be at the center of our foreign policy debate in 2023, I asked [the Brookings Institution historian Robert Kagan] to kick it off.

“Any negotiation that leaves Russian forces in place on Ukrainian soil will only be a temporary truce before Putin’s next attempt,” he said. “Putin is in the process of completely militarizing Russian society, much as Stalin did during World War II. He is in it for the long haul, and he is counting on the United States and the West to grow weary at the prospect of a long conflict — as both the left and right isolationists at the Quincy Institute and in Congress have already indicated they are.

Time will tell.