Two opposing justifications are implied for not defeating Russia in Ukraine. It is too strong, a superpower that will use nuclear weapons. It is too weak, an almost failed state that will fall into chaos. Thread.
The imminence of both hazards is exaggerated. Their realistic appraisal leads to an opposite conclusion. Russia can and should be defeated in UKR.
Putin and his clique, like their Soviet predecessors, are aware that nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.
Not because of millions of potential victims of nuclear war, but because they would perish too. They chase money, power, and fame, not suicide.
The ability and resolve of the US to stand strong against Russian aggression have served as strategic deterrence for more than 70 years.
In tune with the adventurous idea of “Escalate to De-escalate,” Moscow is threatening to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Hardly adding to the military campaign, it would aim to scare Kyiv and the West to capitulate.
If Ukraine and the West surrender, the blackmail will have no limits. If not, Russia will face an overwhelming conventional response or a high chance of escalating to a suicidal level.
Aware of the risks, the Kremlin has stopped short of implementing its threats of going nuclear to prevent or avenge supplies of western weapons to Ukraine.
The Kremlin could feel pressed to use nuclear weapons only in response to an invasion threatening the very existence of Russia, Putin's kingdom.
The US and NATO should make clear the goal for which they will stay with Ukraine and their definition of victory: the restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in accordance with international law.
The victory would be a far cry from an existential threat to Russia or to Putin.
Putin can securely drop the claims of annexations and return to the internationally recognized borders of both Ukraine and Russia regardless of assertions to the contrary by Moscow propagandists.
They will at any moment make a U-turn on command: Defeat. What defeat? Putin taught NATO a lesson: never think of attacking Russia, as if it ever did.
In the same way, the objectives he set at the beginning of the invasion: denazification, demilitarization, and the end of genocide in Donbas have been achieved.
Putin’s police state will crumble one day. That might be an opening for reformers.
But Putin or the regime after him could keep its grip on Russia for a long time, turning it into a kind of Giant North Korea. A depressed China-dependent country brandishing nuclear weapons.
If NATO and Washington won’t fail Ukraine in the current war, in the future Moscow like Pyongyang will not dare to attack a strong America-protected neighbor.