The Ukrainian Verdun

By Victor Davis Hanson, TOWNHALL

Source: AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

Five months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the war is now reduced to one of attrition. The current dirty, grinding slog is fought mostly with artillery and rockets. Everything from Ukraine’s shopping centers to apartment buildings — and the civilians in them — are Russian targets.

Most outsiders have already forgotten the heroic Ukrainian winter repulse of the botched Russian shock-and-awe effort to sweep into Kyiv, decapitate the government, and declare the eastern half of the country a Russian protectorate within mere days.

Months later, the long war devolves further into a contest of mass and weight — tons of explosives blowing up pathways for massed troops grabbing a few more charred miles of ruined landscape.

Russian President Vladimir Putin bets he can throw in more men and more shells than Ukraine and its Western suppliers can match. He is quite willing to “win” by laying waste to eastern Ukraine even if it means losing three Russian soldiers for every Ukrainian.

When war becomes such gridlocked carnage, each side looks to new game-changing diplomacy, strategies, allies, or weapons to break the deadlock.

For Putin, such escalation means more flesh, steel, and explosives. His country is 28 times bigger than Ukraine, and over three times more populous, with an economy 15 times larger.

As for Putin’s financial reserves, the Western oil boycott means increasingly little to him when 40% of the planet’s population in India and China are eager to secure near-limitless Russian energy.

Another 750 million people in Europe once talked tough. But as a second winter nears, their gas and oil imports from Russia will further wither. Then their Churchillian rhetoric may chill.

So, the Ukrainian war increasingly will depend on endless U.S. aid and escalation.

To stop the Russian steamroller, Ukraine demands sophisticated American missiles to sink Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Kyiv requests shipments of U.S. jet fighters to knock down Putin’s missiles and planes.

It asks for more rockets and artillery to ensure tit-for-tat retaliation for every incoming Russian shell and bomb. Kyiv negotiates for more Western intelligence to take out more Russian generals and more lift capacity to stage airborne raids into Mother Russia itself.

We in the West abhor Putin’s war as senseless carnage, the last mad act of a vainglorious and delusional dictator.

Yet Putin trusts that future Russian generations will come to appreciate his grinding effort as the brutal restoration work of Vladimir the Great. When the wreckage is forgotten, Putin is convinced he will be viewed as the world’s most successful irredentist — one who had already battered Georgia, Ossetia, Chechnya, Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine back into the reborn Russian empire.

If Putin can smash Ukraine into submission, the former jewel in the Russian imperial crown, then he thinks he can eventually swallow all the remaining former Soviet republics that are far less formidable than Ukraine.

The United States is nearing a gut-check decision. There are plenty of dangerous firsts in radically upping our role with Ukraine. No one quite knows the post-Cold War rules of engagement when one nuclear power openly fights the surrogate of another.

In the old days of the Soviet Union and a backward Maoist China, conventional American triangulation ensured that neither nuclear power grew closer to each other than to us.

After Ukraine, both nuclear powers are de facto allies, ganging up on a common American enemy. As global inflation spikes, recession looms, and oil prices soar, some of our sworn and de facto allies, including India and Turkey, prefer Russian oil to Western sermons.

The heroic Ukrainian resistance may have brought European NATO states and the United States closer. But oddly, Ukraine’s supporters seemed to have soured the rest of the world on Western economic boycotts and sanctions — and the torpid leadership of President Joe Biden and his European counterparts.

In the West, there are dissident rumblings of a possible plebiscite to adjudicate the Russian-speaking Ukrainian borderlands — with possible guarantees of an Austria-like, non-NATO neutrality for Ukraine.

But such compromise talk earns charges of appeasement from Western zealots. Apparently, American moralists intend to fight for the principle of the sanctity of national borders to the last Ukrainian.

But few have fully explained the ensuing costs and dangers of escalation to the American people. The United States appears to be heading into a stagflationary recession following the loss of deterrence from the Afghanistan catastrophe and with restive renegades like Iran and North Korea joining the Beijing-Moscow nuclear axis.

For now, no one knows whether greater American escalation would tip the balance for an allied democratic victory, and a repeat of our savior role in the two World Wars. Or will the proxy war suck the United States into a Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan-like quagmire?

Worse: Will our intervention trump even the brinkmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis –with the nuclear standoff nightmarishly unpredictable?

July 30, 2022 | 11 Comments »

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11 Comments / 11 Comments

  1. @Michael

    Of course I don’t bother with the fine print … Perhaps I’m a corporal … I know my Commander.

    If you can’t be bothered to read or watch what you are commenting on, send in your commander, instead. I’ll talk to him or her. Go take a hill, or whatever it is corporals do.

  2. Hi, Sebastien. You said,

    You just responded to the headline again, didn’t you?

    My granddaughter calls me the “Read Machine”, because I spend so much time with my nose in a book. Of course I don’t bother with the fine print in all the verbiage here — I’m not completely mad! As my father-in-law used to day, “I’m just a poor boy, trying to get along!”

    Perhaps I’m a corporal in a room full of field marshals here; but I don’t envy all the presumed greatness in the air. I know Whose uniform I wear, and I know my Commander — which is what really matters here; and in this war all of us, regardless of rank, have to bear the same incoming.

    My take on the Ukraine War, so far, is:

    1. Biden instigated the war as a diversion, to draw attention away from his endless political, economic and diplomatic failures. His current Good Cop/Bad Cop routine with Nancy Pelosi, tempting a nuclear war over Taiwan, has the same cause: Biden wants to get re-elected and continue to hold power, right up to the day his sorry soul gets tossed into the Lake of Fire.

    2. Should the US be involved in Ukraine? So much bloodshed and suffering, with nobody profiting but the world’s dictators, bankers and arms merchants — but do we (the American people, or the Jews) profit from any of it? I don’t think we do; however,

    3. We ARE IN the war, the sides in the conflict have been clearly identified (NATO and the West vs. the SCC); so if we can’t find a face-saving way out of it, we need to stand and fight with all our might, or accept national humiliation for years to come.

    For the sake of my grandchildren, I hope we can find a peaceful way out of this. God bless and keep you, Bastien.

  3. Raphael, you said,

    Hanson should know better than anybody that there was a perfectly good reason for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,..

    Maybe Hanson DOES know what he’s talking about, more than the rest of us. As for Putin having “perfectly good” reasons for anything, that’s a bit of bosh. Putin is certainly neither perfect nor good. I don’t think any world leader can win that prize, though I think Donald Trump approaches the “good” mark somewhat. Putin IS a megalomaniac, bent on conquest; and so is his partner in crime, Xi Jinping. Biden and the Globalists, of course, are old hands at this.

    May God save us from these pompous men — and others.

  4. @retired22 Sutton’s argument is the opposite of Hanson’s and unlike Hanson, who is a celebrated figure in conservative and academic circles, Sutton was drummed out of the Hoover Institute for his views.

    “His conclusion from his research on the issue was that the conflicts of the Cold War were “not fought to restrain communism” but were organised in order “to generate multibillion-dollar armaments contracts”, since the United States, through financing the Soviet Union “directly or indirectly, armed both sides in at least Korea and Vietnam.”

    “In his view, the only solution to prevent such abuse in the future was that “a majority of individuals declares or acts as if it wants nothing from government, declares it will look after its own welfare and interests” or, specifically, if “a majority finds the moral courage and the internal fortitude to reject the something-for-nothing con game and replace it by voluntary associations, voluntary communes, or local rule and decentralized societies.”[8][non-primary source needed]”

    I don’t think Hanson would agree with Quigley, either.

    “Having studied the rise and fall of civilizations, “Quigley found the explanation of disintegration in the gradual transformation of social ‘instruments’ into ‘institutions,’ that is, transformation of social arrangements functioning to meet real social needs into social institutions serving their own purposes regardless of real social needs”.[10]

    Or are you alluding to something else?

    I have to say, there does seem to be more than a grain applicability to Sutton’s view of the West’s war with Russia in Ukraine though every war has had both materialistic and idealistic aspects

  5. Who is laying waste to Eastern Ukraine depends on which reports you listen to. Zelensky has already been caught in several lies and Western media suggested the threat was coming from Ukraine, 8 or even 5 years ago.
    We are forc4d to rely on third party sources.
    @Michael That’s the point you missed when you said I was preaching to the choir. I was fact checking the Daily Blitz article from now which had those links from BBC, ABC, and Skye News. 3 countries from before the coordinated propaganda campaign but after the coup.. You just responded to the headline again, didn’t you?

  6. Since reading the works of Carroll Quigley & Antony Sutton I no longer gobble up the wisdom’s of the Peer Reviewed & famous ‘Historians’ .Historians who write the standard popular histories while bypassing facts unacceptable to those in power centers like Washington!
    In a sense Hanson writes narratives bypassing parts of history distasteful to the Establishment.

  7. @Raphael
    I have to agree with you. I had really expected Hanson to come to appreciate the reality of the situation, but the vast majority of this article clearly states otherwise.

    Regarding the regime changes in the West that you speak of, it should be noted that the only regime changes that are likely to actually generate a new policy will be one which comes from another election, such as will come about in Italy where the public will elect a new parliament and the govt will be chosen from this new parliament. This is quite distinct from England where a new govt simply replaced Johnson with some other party favorite who will pursue the same policies that Boris pressed forward. In nations where new elections will be held, a change in policy is possible and might even be argued to be likely. In nations where a new govt will be formed from the same cast of characters who had recently supported a recently fallen govt, the chance of significant policy change is far less likely.

  8. Victor Davis Hanson really disappoints me in this article. I have noted his pro-Ukraine (or maybe just anti-Russian) tilt in the past, but I always thought that he would come around. Nope. There are a lot of points in this piece to take issue with, but suffice to say that Putin is not a megalomaniac bent on restoring the greater Russian empire. Hanson should know better than anybody that there was a perfectly good reason for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and that he showed significant restraint, until he could do so no longer. Furthermore, the best way to end this war is by immediate negotiation, not by escalation. Unfortunately, the west and their surrogate, Zelinsky, are content to see Ukraine demolished bit by bit, piece by piece, to the last Ukrainian as they say. And, lest the west, thinks that big-time escalation, and a full-blown war with Russia, is the answer, they should look over their shoulder and consider how China might read that. Is America really able to conduct two major wars with world powers, on opposite sides of the globe? Nope. So the west in general, and the US in particular, better snap out of it and get back to reality. The first step might be regime change in several western countries.