“Call Russia’s Bluff”

Zalmay Khalilzad has a rather fanciful op-ed in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. Russian President Vladimir Putin is claiming to want a diplomatic solution to his invasion of Ukraine, a claim he’s making with the voice of his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the latter’s tour of Africa. Khalilzad suggested that Putin’s “bluff” should be answered with a number of steps.

First…. One step that may force Moscow to recalculate is for senior US officials to clearly convey that Russian escalation will be met by an accompanying escalation of American support for Ukraine.

Yeah, that really deterred Putin from invading Ukraine in the first place. Neither should we meet escalation with “accompanying escalation.” That just continues surrendering the initiative to the barbarian. We need to escalate faster than the barbarian can respond; we need to be well inside the barbarian’s recognition and decision loops, not the other way around.

Second, improve the chances that Ukraine’s planned offensive operations succeed by ensuring that their plans are realistic and thoroughly evaluating their assets.

Because we Know Better what the folks actually engaged need. That’s why we’re sending them deliberately stunted HIMARS, for instance—we Know Better—instead of sending them fully capable systems, in the numbers they need, and promptly so.

Third, make a better case for other countries to support Ukraine.

Certainly, but we shouldn’t wait to act while we beg for consensus, and shouldn’t act as though we’re unable to act on our own initiative. In the case of Europe, especially, Germany is a lost cause; we should simply write them off and move on. If that means NATO qua NATO doesn’t act, oh well. The member nations don’t need NATO’s permission to act on their own initiatives.

Khalilzad should know better.

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