The Pushback Against Russia
Author: Greg Valliere
January 24, 2022
A FULL-FLEDGED RUSSIAN INVASION of Ukraine still strikes us as unlikely. Conflicts on the border and cyberwarfare are possible as this crisis simmers for months to come — but Vladimir Putin faces a major impediment: the near-certainty of a fierce resistance from Ukrainian patriots.
ON-THE-GROUND REPORTING from Kyiv, especially by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, is quite revealing. First of all, the Ukrainian public overwhelmingly rejects Putin’s absurd contention that there’s a deep bond between Russia and Ukraine.
THERE MAY HAVE BEEN A BOND CENTURIES AGO, but Putin is reviled by the Ukrainian public and even Russian-speaking Ukrainians overwhelmingly oppose him, according to Ignatius. A 1991 referendum for independence won 92% of the vote.
SECOND AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, the heavily armed Ukrainians are prepared to resist. Even if the country’s military is subdued, a subsequent guerrilla resistance would inflict significant casualties on the Russian army. The Ukrainians are prepared for thousands of casualties; the Russian public may quickly tire of a war.
AFTER HIS FAUX PAS LAST WEEK, President Biden seems willing to impose stiff measures, including export bans on computer chips and other technology that Russia’s economy needs. There’s a leak this morning that fresh export curbs are coming, which could cripple some key Russian sectors — aviation, maritime and high technology.
BIDEN ALSO IS CONSIDERING a major infusion of arms and even sending U.S. troops into Ukraine in the coming weeks. Aggressive sanctions against Russian banks are a virtual certainty.
IS THERE AN OFF-RAMP? We think the U.S. can offer some carrots — a reduction of Western troops and aircraft in Ukraine, a pledge to curb military exercises, and perhaps even private assurances — nothing explicit — that Ukraine will not become a NATO member any time soon.
IF NONE OF THESE CARROTS OR STICKS dissuade Putin, he has to be prepared for heavy casualties, which could loosen his shaky grip on Russian public opinion. The public is restive already in Moscow and St. Petersburg; a bloody war could turn the Russian public against Putin.
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