I will put this as simply as I can — if the recent New Yorker article by Keith Gessen — The Case for Negotiating with Russia — accurately reflects the only two policy positions being debated in Washington regarding how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, then a war between Russia and the United States is inevitable. There is no viable path for negotiations.
Gessen introduces you to Samuel Charap, a RAND analyst who Gessen claims, “This piece is symptomatic of the insanity that infects the establishment foreign policy community in Washington, DC and New York. Gessen “offers a different perspective on the war in Ukraine.”
And what is that perspective?
In the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine, in 2014, Charap wrote a book, with the Harvard political scientist Timothy Colton, called “Everyone Loses. . . . Russia was the aggressor, to be sure.
Blaming Russia for the “incursion into eastern Ukraine” is like blaming Poland for starting World War II with Nazi Germany. It is a lie. Charap discredits himself as a serious academic by repeating this propaganda. He blithely ignores the fact that the Government in Kiev launched the attacks on the population in the Donbass and the opinions of the majority Russian speaking inhabitants of Crimea at the time. If you’re thinking of buying the Charap book, save your money.
Gessen makes no attempt to hide his bias either. Even after solid documentary evidence proving the falsity of the claim that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump, Gessen still claims that specious allegation is true:
I first met Charap in the summer of 2017, not long after the book came out, and in the midst of a maelstrom of anger at Russia for its interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Robert Mueller had been appointed as special counsel for the Justice Department, Donald Trump had labelled the investigation a hoax, and Congress was in the process of passing a bipartisan sanctions bill against Russia.
According to Gessen, there are three major issues regarding the war in Ukraine:
The argument in the U.S. has split into two profoundly opposed camps. On the one side are people—not very many, at least publicly—like Charap, who argue that there might be a way to end the war sooner rather than later by freezing the conflict in place, and working to secure and rebuild the large part of Ukraine that is not under Russian occupation. On the other side are those who believe that this is no solution and the war must be fought until Putin is soundly defeated and humiliated. . . .
Another disagreement centers on the possibility of a decisive Ukrainian battlefield victory. Charap believes that neither side has the resources to knock the other out of the fight entirely. . . . But the other side of this debate has been more vocal. They see a highly motivated Ukrainian Army, supported by a highly motivated populace. They point to the relative cheapness, to the U.S., of a war that pins down one of its major adversaries. And they believe that, given enough time, and enough Western weapons and training, Ukraine could take back a fair amount, if not all, of its territory; sever the land bridge to Crimea; and get close enough to Crimea to deter any future Russian military operations. . . .
The final disagreement concerns Putin’s intentions. The “fight to the end” camp believes that, if Putin is not decisively defeated, he will continue attacking Ukraine. . . . Charap, of course, disagrees. He believes that it is possible to make a ceasefire “sticky”—by including inducements and punishments, mostly through sanctions, and by monitoring the situation closely.
Charap and his faux opponents in Washington still do not get it — Russia will not, under any circumstance, allow the Ukrainian military to continue to exist with neo-Nazi soldiers in its ranks or allow Ukraine to become a part of NATO. Non-negotiable. Oh, and one more thing — it is not giving any territory back to Ukraine, especially Crimea.
Charap’s competence as a foreign policy expert is in real question if this quote from Gessen’s piece is accurate:
To Charap, “The strategic defeat of Russia has already taken place.” It took place in the first months of the war, when Russian aggression and Ukrainian resistance helped galvanize a united European response. “Their international reputation, their international economic position, these ties with Europe that had been constructed over decades—literally, physically constructed—were rendered useless overnight,”
Yeah, right. Ignore Russia’s burgeoning relations with China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. Who needs Europe when you, Russia, are the 5th largest GDP in the world in terms of purchasing parity power? What is it exactly that Russia “needs” from Europe? I know the answer — NOT ONE DAMN THING. Charap’s myopic preoccupation with Europe vis-a-vis Russia has blinded him to the historical earthquake that is taking place as Russia is leading the way in setting up an alternative to the U.S. controlled “rules based” international order.
I am holding out hope that Gessen’s article presenting a faux Manichean choices regarding Russia are not the only two positions being discussed behind closed doors. The catastrophic disaster unfolding for Ukraine in the Donbass should not be ignored. The only question is how long will Washington politicians, pundits and media mavens continue to bullshit themselves with false dreams of a Ukrainian victory over Russia. Biden and his national security team are acting more and more like a degenerate meth addict and lack the will to ask for help. That kind of addictive behavior always ends in tragedy. I fear that is where we are headed.
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