By Anders Aslund
But a small, victorious war is not possible in Ukraine, either. As Ukraine’s new defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, recently pointed out :
“The human cost for Ukraine would be catastrophic, but Ukrainians would not mourn alone. Russia would also suffer massive losses. Images of coffins returning to Russia from the front lines in Ukraine would spread like a virus across social media and would soon prove too much for even the Kremlin censors to contain. A major war in Ukraine would plunge the whole of Europe into crisis.”
U. S intelligence agencies warn that Russia is mobilizing some 175,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. But a force of that size would not suffice. Ukraine’s active military forces comprise 250,000 troops , many with ample battle experience, who would be defending their homeland against soldiers who may have no higher aim than collecting their salaries.
Russia’s mistake in 1904 was that it did not take Japan seriously as a military power. When Japan emerged victorious, the czar’s power was fatally weakened, allowing for the revolution that followed. A 2022 Russo-Ukrainian war could prove to be an even bigger folly, one that Putin is unlikely to survive.
In the meantime, the Kremlin must not be allowed to benefit domestically from its saber-rattling. The West responded with only limited sanctions following Putin’s previous aggression against Georgia and Ukraine. It must learn from those mistakes and stand fully with Ukraine.
In addition to providing military supplies and training for Ukraine, the West should impose truly devastating sanctions against Russia. Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have promised as much. They and America’s European allies now must follow through.
Anders Åslund, a senior fellow at the Stockholm Free World Forum, is the author of “Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy. “
This commentary was published with permission of Project Syndicate — Putin’s Last Gasp?
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