The sinking of the flagship cruiser Moskva, the pride of the Russian navy, could prove to be a turning point, not only in the showdown in Ukraine between one insane autocrat and an entire citizenry of liberty-loving people, but also in the history of war.
If Western democracies give Zelensky and his smart, hard-as-nails defenders enough support, that could be the tip of a mighty spear that convinces autocratic leaders who want to stay in power that the use of military force is a loser.
- Thousands of body bags are going home to Russian mothers.
- The Russian economy is headed to depression.
- NATO is coalescing and getting bigger and stronger.
- Russia is becoming isolated from global trade.
- Putin and his assassins are increasingly regarded as pariahs.
- The Moskva and an undisclosed number of its sailors are in a watery grave at the bottom of the Black Sea.
- Thousands of hackers are getting the truth to shut-off Russian people.
That all adds up to at least one level of defeat.
Even if Putin ends up with a bigger chunk of Ukraine, on balance he will have lost. Russia may never recover from the self-inflicted damage.
Putin’s poorly trained armed forces have been humiliated. That doesn’t mean he will lose in the short term. There are many bloody battles to fight. And, monster that he is, many more innocents, including children, will die terrible deaths. The odds are still on Russia’s side if you only play the numbers game on available armaments.
But, as the Moskva proves, war is not just a numbers exercise. It’s also about leadership, valor, political will and alliances.
It’s that latter piece that is crucial now. Ukraine needs massive, unequivocal arms support as it switches gears from suck-it-up defense to some offensive counter-attacks. And that’s what’s happening.
High-end arms from NATO countries, such as tanks and longer-range missiles, are arriving. With the right missile support from allies, Ukraine can destroy and neutralize Russia’s other ships in the Black Sea. We now know it can be done, despite the Russian navy’s air defense systems. The Russian ships have already pulled back.
Allied missiles can also be used by smart Ukrainians to go after missile bases in Belarus. That Russian ally should be fair game. There needs to be a price paid for aligning with a war criminal.
NATO is constrained to stop short of a tactical nuclear war. Conventional warfare is what Putin inaugurated; he can’t make a case against a symmetrical response by the attacked country.
That said, Putin is delusionary. He can conjure up a rationale for whatever he decides to do. At this point, no Russian faction will refute him.
If he does go nuclear, all bets and unwritten understandings are off. It’s then truly a world war. Radiation fallout crosses international borders.
A NATO naval blockade of Black Sea ports becomes an option. So does an equivalent nuclear strike on a remote Russian military base as a demonstration of equivalent nuclear power. Think Hiroshima. All such steps are godawful to even think about. But Putin can’t be allowed to run rampant over neighboring countries like Hitler did in the late 1930s and 1940s.
The obvious conclusion today is that he has to be stopped or grievously damaged in this round of warfare.
The right wing of the Republican Party, including the Wisconsin GOP, is suspect when it comes to standing tall with the Ukrainians. They follow the lead of Donald Trump, who holds Putin, the killer, in high regard.
Incredibly, Trump just asked Putin for a political favor against the Bidens, even as Russian soldiers were committing war crimes in southern Ukraine against non-combatants, bound men, women and children. On moral grounds alone, we have no alternative but to go all-in for the heroic Ukrainians.
The mind boggles at Trump’s timing and judgment. He is as isolated from reality as Putin.
Let there be no equivocation in the Wisconsin’s congressional delegation on taking down Putin. Let there be no “off ramp” for Putin until he is defeated or badly damaged.
This is a war for the ages. For the sake of human freedoms across the globe, and for a goodly time span going forward, we cannot let Putin win.