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Very Brief Thoughts on the Eve of Conflict

Putin’s goals, in whatever order one may focus on:

1. Take over Ukraine, remove the government, and install a pro-Putin regime.

2. Pull apart NATO. Try to make private deals with France and Germany, where Russian oil is promised to continue to flow.

3. Try to severely damage Biden, at the least help Republicans to win big in the elections, and put in more pro-Russian types;. e.g., JD Vance who said he didn’t have any interest in what happens to Ukraine.

4. Rely on pro-Putin organizations such as Fox, which daily repeats Russian arguments, and wherever Glenn Greenwald is putting out his anti-American rhetoric now.

5. Do not lose, because Putin never loses, in is perceptions and statements. In some way, he is absolutely determined to turn all of this into a victory, which is unsettling, at the very least.

Biden’s goals:

1. Do everything possible to sanction and hurt Russia because of this invasion, but without somehow escalating into a World War.

2. Keep the NATO countries in a unified front, even as Macron seems to want to go his own way, and Germany is lukewarm.

3. Take the best advice from a staff which certainly seems to be very capable at this early stage in the conflict. Have the ability to discern which of your advisors are the most perceptive, though you certainly hope that all of them are.

4. Still somehow get things done in this country, and keep this war from engulfing your administration so that you cannot work on domestic policy, which of course is one of the aims of Russia and the Republicans.

5. Look like, and be, the kind of leader who will gain respect from a majority of the populace during this tense period. Speak forcefully against the Radical Far Right elements in our country, particularly in Congress and the media, plus the Russian cheerleader Donald Trump, and do not let them try to misrepresent the reality of what is going on. They will attack you as a warmonger, and blame you for starting the war, which is of course absolutely false, but that never stopped them from lying before, it is their nature. Fox will go after you every night, mock you, call you incompetent, and try to get people to march and riot against you. You have to surmount all of that, and keep the economy going, because one of the chief reasons this is happening now, is Russia’s determination to wreck the U.S. economy.

6. Try to somehow end up with an outcome which salvages some worthwhile things, including a strong alliance among most of the major nations. If you do almost all of the right things, but the end result is Russia controlling Ukraine, and your popularity negative, so that Republicans take over, you have failed, even if it was in no way your direct fault. Put another way, you have to emerge ahead, not just in terms of decency and such abstract things, but politically as well. Noble intentions and honorable actions take one only so far in the sweep of history. You have to be pragmatic and strategic as well. Would that you had a Churchill to work with you, or even a Merkel, but you do not appear to, so it is mostly up to you, as difficult as that is. You might want to give Bill and Hillary Clinton a call, if your pride will allow it.

3 Responses

  1. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has not happened yet. It may not happen. The French have announced tonight that Biden has agreed “in principle” to meet with Putin in the near future on the condition that Russia does not invade. Macron was the key broker in this deal.

    Blinken is scheduled to meet with Lavrov on Feb. 24th. If Russia does not invade, the Biden-Putin summit will occur sometime after the Blinken-Lavrov meeting. Diplomatic negotiations are continuing. Invasion is not inevitable.

  2. The website Responsible Statecraft has several excellent articles on the Ukrainian situation.

    Two notable ones:

    From Feb. 15, 2022: “I was there: NATO and the origins of the Ukraine crisis” by Jack F. Matlock Jr. (former US ambassador to the USSR)

    From Feb. 21, 2022: “Putin’s move on Donestk, Lugansk is illegal but falls short of new invasion” by Anatol Lieven

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