Skip to main content


Why America might abandon Ukraine

Joe Biden speaking at defence contractor Lockheed Martin. Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty

I hate to say it, says Simon Kuper in the FT, but “throwing Ukraine to Putin” might be in the naked self-interest of both the US and western Europe. Of course, morally, we ought to back Kyiv. But democracies are set up to serve their own voters, and “they have enough trouble doing that”. The West has stuck with Ukraine so far because it has been “cheap and easy” – supporting an ally that “shares our better values and does all the fighting itself”. Much of the $78bn the US has so far spent defending Ukraine has boosted America’s all-important arms manufacturers, with the added bonus of weakening Russia.

But what if Putin manages to raise the cost of helping? He tried to scare us by cutting off gas and grain and sending refugees west. His latest gambit is “putting nukes in Belarus”. At a certain point, the juice may no longer be worth the squeeze. Interventionists say that if we fold on Ukraine, we’re next, but is that really true? Putin certainly isn’t a threat to the American mainland, or even to western Europe. Russians haven’t crossed the Elbe in two centuries, and if Putin wanted to attack Berlin, the question is: “He and whose army?” His own troops have barely managed to take Bakhmut. It’s a grim thought, but the West, as it learned in the Cold War, can do just fine even if “eastern Europe is in Russian chains”.

💣📉 America’s generosity with military aid to Ukraine is causing a “munitions crisis”, says Seth Jones in Foreign Affairs. The number of Javelin anti-tank systems Washington donated in the first six months of the war, for example, “is the same number the US would normally produce over seven years”. In a recent think tank war game simulating a conflict between China and the US in 2026, the Americans exhausted their current supply of weapons within “the first few weeks”. Certain critical kit – such as long-range, precision-guided missiles – ran out in a few days.