It cracks me up when an author pretends to so much understanding of nuance and what our enemies think that they argue that responding forcefully to a foe's aggression just "plays into their hands."
They write as if only the author has the fine understanding of the situation to see the true deep strategy of our enemy that actually counts on us resisting them to complete their plans of world (or regional or imperial or national) domination!
Or sometimes it makes me weep with a sense of doom or throw small objects at non-valuable things in frustration at our stupidity. It depends on my mood, I suppose.
Yes, I remember when such deep thinkers opposed our military response to 9/11. A number of analysts said that Osama bin Laden wanted us to attack him in Afghanistan after 9/11.
I don't know how deep Osama's plan was, since the Navy has never told us where they dumped his carcass at sea after our forces killed him at his Pakistan residence a few years ago.
Anyway, an author says that helping Ukraine resist Russian aggression would fall into Putin's diabolically clever plan! No, really. That's what he says:
As someone who has visited Russia often, America arming Ukraine will just play into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy of making the United States the enemy. ...
I think Mr. Putin wants America to arm the Ukrainians. Russian media thrives on this stuff and therefore the people will believe, even more than they already do, that America is the enemy. The Ukrainian conflict is not all about taking territory in the East and keeping Ukraine from NATO and the European Union. It is also about keeping Mr. Putin and his minions in power.
I agree this is not our fight. Who says we should fight Russia to keep Ukraine free? It's a dangerous thing to have post-invasion NATO membership that retroactively justifies our intervention, eh?
I don't think the logistics would allow us to deploy decisive force that far east even if it was a good idea.
Nor am I eager to start a war with declining Russia while rising China looms and while we battle jihadis across the greater Middle East region.
And I don't think we need to provide big ticket items to Ukraine to help them militarily. It would take too long to integrate new types of weapons and Ukraine has lots of big weapons if they are repaired and upgraded.
Case in point:
Ukraine recently announced that it is upgrading about 300 T-72B tanks held in reserve. These will be refurbished and get new equipment that will make them similar to the Polish PT-91. The official reason for this is that Ukraine wants the T-72Bs to meet NATO requirements but the upgraded tanks would also improve the defensive capabilities of the Ukrainian Army forces fighting in eastern Ukraine.
So the issue isn't fighting Russia directly. It isn't even about us sending major weapon systems. But the author thinks it is counter-productive to even help Ukraine resist military aggression?
Putin's efforts to bolster his continued autocratic rule work just fine with chest-thumping conquests at the expense of Ukraine. He doesn't need to paint America as the enemy with our help to Ukraine as Exhibit A.
Ideally, Putin has low-cost conquests like Crimea. The Donbas isn't working out as planned, and that's a good thing. We should make it worse for Russia.
Besides, that America-as-the-enemy train left the station (although forgive me for linking to the generally awful Vox--by chance I ran across this and I'd have to take time to find something else for the same point. I plead laziness).
Long before Putin invaded Ukraine, Putin painted America as out to weaken and destroy Russia. They make up stuff, so what's the difference if we actually help a sovereign member of the United Nations resist illegal aggression by Russia?
And don't forget that before the conquest of Crimea, Russia considered our efforts in Ukraine to bolster their economy--which is the author's solution to resisting Putin--and political institutions--which is necessary to combat economy-killing corruption--as a plot against Holy Mother Russia without any arms involved at all.
Helping Ukraine restore their economy, as the author says our response should be rather than arming Ukraine, has to be part of our total effort to help Ukraine resist Russia. Yes, Ukraine has to be able to afford to resist Russia.
But if Ukraine can't also defend their territory from Russian attacks, all we are doing by bolstering Ukraine's economy while refusing to help Ukraine defend their land is creating a more valuable target for Putin to conquer.
I say we risk "playing into Putin's hands" and attempt to inflict a defeat on Putin by assisting Ukraine in resisting Russia's subliminal invasion and occupation. This means supporting new NATO states who are familiar with Russian-designed weapons in restoring Ukraine's large Soviet-built arsenal and providing the force multiplier pieces that fill in capabilities gaps that allow the existing major weapons to be used more effectively, including intelligence about where the Russians are in Donbas.
If Putin can't wrap up his conquest, how glorious will owning Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine seem to his people when their standard of living keeps dropping as a consequence of aggression? Isn't Russia's economy at least as significant as Ukraine's?
Because defeat is one thing that a thug ruler intent on using glorious conquest to bolster their rule just can't handle. Although I admittedly haven't been to Russia any times to bolster my statement.