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Ukraine war

Is it wise to raise the stakes over Ukraine?

Biden with Zelensky in Kyiv. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty

President Biden has doubled down on Ukraine, says Andrew Sullivan in The Weekly Dish. He’s “all in” now, declaring last week that Kyiv must triumph, while the US ratchets up arms production and pressure builds to send jets. Is this prudent? Russia, too, is escalating, with more than 300,000 troops now in Ukraine and its economy – which has held up much better than anyone predicted – in “wartime gear”. Nor is Russia as isolated as it once was. China’s neutrality is waning: the Russian military is negotiating with a Chinese tech manufacturer over the production of more kamikaze drones. In a long war of attrition, “mass production of weapons matters” – and China has greater manufacturing capability than the West, if it chooses to use it.

In the US, Republicans Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis both favour a negotiated settlement. As DeSantis points out, the strongest argument for war – that anything less puts all of Europe at risk of Moscow’s aggression – seems a lot weaker now that the Russian military has shown itself a “shambles”. The US held back during the Cold War when Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary and Czechoslovakia simply because the alternative could have been catastrophic. Yet now we are risking more than we ever did then, for “far lower stakes”. We can pray things don’t escalate this time. But the West is committed to a goal unacceptable to Moscow. And how effective is prayer against a “desperate regime” fighting for survival and a leader who knows a Western victory could mean his “literal demise”?

😀☹️ Western officials are nowhere near as gung-ho in private as they are in public, says Tom McTague in UnHerd. In London, Paris and Washington, the talk behind closed doors is less of “sweeping Ukrainian advances” and more of the conflict descending deeper into the “anarchic quagmire” before “emerging, grasping towards some kind of settlement”. The overwhelming consensus among my British government sources is that the war will get “a lot more chaotically unpredictable before it settles – if it ever does”.