Ukrainian Paradoxes

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

One of the strangest things about the American response to Ukraine has been the willingness of the Left and the establishment Right to discount completely that the war is heading toward a rendezvous with ever-deadlier weapons and staggering fatalities—even as we witness increasing nuclear threats from a weakened and adrift Vladimir Putin. They insist that Putin is merely saber-rattling. And he might be. Supposedly, in his diminished and discredited state, Putin would not dare to set off a tactical nuclear weapon (as if diminished and discredited leaders are not more likely to do so).

Proxies Versus Balloons 

But while we discount the nuclear dangers of a paranoid Putin reacting to the arming of our proxy Ukraine, the brazen Chinese, in violation of American airspace and international law, sent their recent “weather “ surveillance balloon across the continental United States with impunity. Only after public pressure, media coverage, and the Republican opposition did the Biden Administration, in the 11th hour, finally drop its increasingly incoherent and disingenuous excuses, and agree to shoot the balloon down as it reached the Atlantic shore—its mission completed.

Given the balloon may have more, not less, surveillance capability than satellites, may have itself been designed eventually to adopt offensive capability, and may have been intended to gauge the American reaction to incursions, the Biden hesitation and fear to defend U.S. airspace and confront China makes no sense.

Contrast Ukraine: Why discount the dangers of strategic escalation in a third-party proxy war, but exaggerate them to the point of stasis when a belligerent’s spy balloon crosses the U.S. heartland with impunity? Are the borders of Ukraine more sacrosanct and more worthy of our taking existential risks than our own airspace and southern border.

When and How Did Russia Enter Ukraine?

Russia did not just enter Ukraine on February 24, 2022. So where were the voices of outrage in 2014‚ from Joe Biden and others in the highest positions of the Obama Administration when Putin first absorbed Crimea and eastern Ukraine?

Why do the most fervent supporters of blank-check aid to the Zelenskyy government grow indifferent when we ask how Russia in 2014 managed so easily to reclaim vast swaths of Ukraine? Is it because of the 2012 hot-mic conversation between Barack Obama and then Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, in which Obama promised: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space. . . . This is my last election . . . After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Obama’s “ flexibility ” on missile defense in eastern Europe was an understatement—given he completely canceled a long-planned major U.S. commitment to Poland and the Czech Republic, a system that might have been of some value during the present conflict with Putin. And certainly, Putin did give Obama the requested reelection “space” by not invading Crimea and eastern Ukraine until 16 months after Obama was reelected in his “last election.” Once he did so, the bargain was apparently sealed, and each party got what it wanted: both space (i.e., temporary good Russian behavior) and flexibility (i.e., canceling an air defense system).

So it was almost surreal how the bipartisan establishment forgot why and how Putin entered and annexed thousands of square miles of Ukraine so easily, and apparently on the correct assumption of an anemic American response. Did James Clapper in 2014 smear Obama as a “Russian asset” as he did Donald Trump in 2017?

In the “Russian collusion” and “Russian disinformation” hoaxes, the purveyors of those hysterias forgot the role of “reset” appeasement in empowering Putin to attack Ukraine in 2014—in the same manner as the Biden Administration’s ignominious retreat from Kabul was the context for Putin’s 2022 attempt on Kyiv. The common denominator in both cases was Moscow’s apparent conclusion that foreign policy under the Obama-Biden continuum was viewed as indifference to Russian aggression.

Who Did Not Arm the Ukrainians?

Why, after 2014, didn’t the Obama Administration arm the Ukrainians to the teeth? The surreal element of the first Trump impeachment was the reality that Trump was impeached for delaying offensive arms shipments (on the understandable and later proven assumption that the Biden family and elements of the Ukraine government were both utterly corrupt).

If Trump was impeached for delaying the offensive arms he approved and eventually sent, what was the proper reaction to Obama-Biden, who vetoed them altogether? And if the fallback argument is that Trump’s delay targeted his 2020 presidential opponent, then we arrive again at the same absurdity. For Joe Biden, by staging the Mar-a-Lago raid to charge Trump with the same “crimes” he knowingly at the time had committed, should then likewise be impeached for targeting his possible future political opponent.

But be clear: there is far more demonstrable evidence that the Biden family was corrupt and leveraging the Ukrainian and Chinese governments than there is of Donald Trump pilfering “nuclear codes” and “nuclear secrets.”

Part of the American people’s bewilderment over the left-wing zeal to send $100 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine and to damn anyone who asks for clarification of our long-term strategy in ending the war is precisely the contrast between Putin’s lethargy between 2017-2021 and his restless aggression in 2014 and again in 2022, the bookend years to the hated Trump Administration.

Putin moved on all these occasions because Obama’s refusal to arm Ukraine, his quid pro quos with Putin on missile defense, his rhetorical “red line” in Syria, and his abrupt withdrawal from Iraq that birthed ISIS—in the same manner that Biden scrambled from Afghanistan—promised that America’s response would be muted if Putin’s invasion was “minor,” and offered a safe exit for Zelenskyy.

If we truly seek to navigate an end to Russian aggression, by one means or another, the beginning of our wisdom would entail how exactly we got here in the first place—and require us to learn from our disasters.

Why Are Our Arms Depots Depleted?

If we wish to wonder why Vladimir Putin believed that the Biden Administration’s response to his aggression would be like the Obama-Biden reaction in 2014, then we need only look to the August 2021 American collapse in Afghanistan. That summer, Joe Biden made the decision to yank precipitously all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, abandoning a $1 billion embassy, a multimillion-dollar refitted airbase, and hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment, including 22,174 Humvee vehicles, nearly 1,000 armored vehicles, 64,363 machine guns, and 42,000 pick-up trucks and SUVs 358,530 assault rifles, 126,295 pistols, and nearly 200 artillery units.

Recent reports, denied by the United States, allege that Putin is negotiating with the Taliban to buy some of the abandoned American arsenal to help replenish Russia’s enormous materiel losses in Ukraine. What helped the Soviets win World War II were the American gifts of 400,000 trucks and Jeeps. Over 60,000 American armored vehicles, Humvees, and trucks, now in the hands of the Taliban would be a valuable addition to Putin’s arsenal. The media assures us that poorly equipped Russian soldiers struggle with obsolete guns dating back to the early postwar period, while assuring us that either the Taliban would not sell, or Russians could not use, over a half-million late-model American automatic pistols, assault rifles, and machine guns.

Americans are quite critical of the supposed anemic European response and lack of aid matching the American largess. But, in fact, Biden likely reversed course from his initial remarks about minor incursions and a safe ride out for Zelenskyy, and a prior aversion to sending offensive arms, because the frontline Europeans were terrified of Putin on the move and demanded an American-led NATO joint effort to supply Ukraine.

The belated but increasingly muscular response of the United States to pour aid into Ukraine may stall the Russian advance and even its anticipated spring offensive. But the growing involvement of the United States has raised the issue of deterrence, as China closely watches both the response of Europe and the United States and the ability of revanchist Russia to invade. If Russia were to mobilize and use all its resources—10 times the GDP of Ukraine, 30 times the territory, 3.5 times the population—it would likely require a far greater sacrifice of Ukrainian blood and Western treasure. And the war that may have already cost over 200,000 dead and 300,000 wounded will likely prove the most lethal since the Vietnam War, in which over 3 million soldiers and civilians died on both sides of the conflict.

More importantly, will the zealots, who demand that we empty our arsenals to supply Ukraine, vote in Congress for massive increases in the defense budget to ratchet up arms production to ensure that our depleted stocks of weapons are restored rapidly?

In sum, there would be broader support for Ukraine’s military aid if advocates were transparent on the following 10 issues:

1) The United States will be as firm and deterrent vis à vis China as it is now belatedly with Russia.

2) We will acknowledge that Ukraine is a mess because Vladimir Putin between 2009 and 2016, and again in 2021, concluded that the United States either would not or could not deter his aggression.

3) Just as we attempt to help to protect the sovereign borders of Ukraine, so too must we consider just as sacrosanct our own airspace and our southern border.

4) All those in government and the media who demand more weapons for Ukraine, after the war ends, with the same zeal must demand immediate increased arms production to ensure their own country is as well protected as Ukraine.

5) Just as we deplore Russia interfering in our elections, so too we must cite Ukrainian interference in 2016, as evidenced by the pro-Clinton skullduggery of Alexandra Chalupa, Valeriy Chaly, Serhiy Leshchenko, Oksana Shulyar, and Andrii Telizhenko, along with the Biden family’s financial relations with Burisma and top Ukrainian officials. We expect and prepare for enemies to tamper with our elections, but Ukraine is a supposed friend that nonetheless likely was more involved in 2016 than were the Russians—and yet was never held to account.

6) Unfortunately, we cannot believe any of the predictions emanating from our top intelligence and military leaders about the course of the Ukrainian war, given they were simply wrong about the Afghanistan collapse, wrong both about the initial resiliency of the Ukrainians and later the supposed imminent collapse of the Russians, both biased and wrong about Hunter Biden’s laptop, implicated in the Russian collusion hoax, and once again misled the American people about the time of arrival, the nature, and the purpose of the Chinese balloon, and the various garbled reasons why it was not immediately shot down.

7) Those who feel international negotiations about the status of Crimea and the Ukrainian borderlands are tantamount to surrender, and therefore taboo, must prepare the American people for their envisioned victory of ejecting every Russian from pre-2014 Ukraine, by assessing the dangers of a nuclear exchange, the eventual cost in arms and weapons of $200-500 billion, and a price tag of economic aid to rebuild a ruined Ukraine that will vastly exceed our military aid.

8) Those who advocate Ukraine’s entry into NATO, must remind the American people that should Putin then mount a second offensive into Ukraine, American troops, along those of 29 other NATO nations, would be sent to Ukraine to fight nuclear Russia and its allies.

9) We should apparently accept as regrettable, but tolerable that the war in Ukraine has united China and Russia, ensured they are both patrons for nuclear North Korea and soon-to-be nuclear Iran, and are near to drawing Turkey and India into their orbit—or nearly half the world’s population.

10) Given that China is a more existential threat than Russia, and given that the Chinese danger to the whole of Taiwan is far greater than is the Russian threat to all of Ukraine, we would expect those advocating blank-check support for Ukraine, would of course be as adamantly protective of Taiwan, even if the two wars were to become simultaneous. We expect those who demand no limits in weakening Putin’s dictatorship, harbor even more animus for the far more dangerous totalitarianism of China.


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61 thoughts on “Ukrainian Paradoxes”

  1. This war is a classic case of blowback for the U.S. and NATO. The U.S. and NATO lured Russia into a ground war in Ukraine, only to fall into their own trap. Sanctions intended to crush the Russian economy have instead led to global inflation. Hardest hit is Europe, with spiraling energy costs that are disrupting German industry and shrinking economic growth. As Germany is normally the economic engine of Europe, the entire E.U. is impacted, as well as the U.K. Russia’s economy has continued to grow as oil prices have risen and sanctions have harmed Europe more than Russia. U.S. DEFSEC Lloyd Austin completely ignored the (Colin) Powell Doctrine which lays out terms such as having specific, measurable and attainable objectives before any military commitment is made. Instead, Austin and the Biden Regime engaged the U.S. in a proxy war with nuclear powered Russia based on the vague notion of weakening Russia’s military strength. Instead, Russia has increased the size of its’ armed forces and increased production of arms. The U.S. has depleted its’ stocks of artillery shells and anti-tank weapons as has the U.K. NATO has been exposed as being incapable of cobbling together a few tanks to send into the conflict. Ukraine has suffered massive losses of armed forces that it cannot replace. Russia started the conflict with larger armed forces and the mismatch has only grown over the past year of war. Ukraine is now scraping the bottom of the barrel for replacement troops, with civilian


      “The U.S. and NATO lured Russia into a ground war in Ukraine, only to fall into their own trap.”

      I disagree. “to lure” implies intent. I don’t think the Obama or Biden regimes intended for Putin to invade Ukraine or any other part of the former Soviet Union/czarist empire. I think rather Obama and Biden pursued their own progressive goals which are focused on domestic political power, and they consider foreign policy only after that. They didn’t lure, they were just foolish and incompetent enough, and focused on consolidating the centralized federal State and destroying their political opponents, that the weren’t really paying attention.

      I don’t think NATO lured Putin, either. The Europeans are terrified of another general European war, because they know that short of nuclear weapons, they are not really in a position to stop a Russian advance, even if it might eventually bog down.

      No, not intent-incompetence and foolishness.

  2. civilians rounded up and pressed into service while Russia has reinforced and grown the size of its’ advancing army rapidly. While Zelensky is doing photo ops with Ursula Von der Leyen and dining in Brussels with Charles Michel, Ukrainians are being picked up off the streets all over Europe and sent to their certain deaths against their will. Americans are being conned by our government and the press that Ukraine is winning while Russia is systematically wiping out the Ukrainian army. This is classic blowback by every measure.

    1. Good and informative post. NATO should have stayed in its own lane instead of advancing on Russia’s border, esp. the one in front of its long flat plain. It’s good to know both sides of the story before committing to armed conflict in a proxy war. A look at Russian demographics in terms of aging would have explained a lot about Putin’s concerns. Did Zelenski not think there would be consequences for getting in bed with America’s Exon, since Europe is Russia’s primary oil market? So on.

      1. NATO is doing nothing. Article V has NOT been invoked. Some NATO members are aiding Ukraine. Hungary is all but openly siding with Russia. Turkey is playing both ends for it’s own advantage. Hungary and Turkey are diffident if not hostile to adding Sweden and Finland. Saying “NATO this” and “NATO that” is just falling for Putin’s talking points.

  3. Great analysis. Unfortunately it requires more than a 6 second attention span to process. For those who are limited to 6 second attention spans or less try this:

    Since the Uniparty decided Trump must not be re-elected Putin has become the most evil person in the world.

    A war, preferably halfway around the world, is a great distraction. A few tactical nukes deployed “over there” is preferable to the Uniparty than having America focused on other matters, like election integrity or how badly they are governing or see next point

    The attitude towards the CCP? They ( the CPP) have receipts that show the leaders of the Uniparty pretty well owned.

      1. I was right there on the front lines. Vietnam man-shooting at Germans. We took a direct hit from a double latte and Mary had a little lamb.


          1. You do not comprendre. Not at all. Let me say it again with clarity.

            I do not engage trolls. Or bots.

          2. Lew, I’m neither a troll nor a bot. You shot your mouth off with a bunch of wild conspiracy theories and then refused to defend them. Deflecting only exposes the fact that you know if you cited your sources or engaged in actual argument you’d be exposed as a crank. If you don’t want to be challenged, don’t post.

          3. I’m done with you, but before I go, you want to talk wild conspiracy theories…

            Biden got 81 million votes in the fairest general election ever
            Ukraine is a democracy
            Masks work, so does the vaccine & the virus came from a wet market.

            In spite of your denial I still think you are a bot or troll because your surname is absent b

          1. Naw, you’re not done with me Lew. I’ve been here forever and I’ve often said why I don’t use my last name. I have a LOT of friends and relatives in Academia and one now in Classics, which is particularly vicious. Your parting shots have nothing to do with the topic at hand and are more deflection. Why can’t you just cite your sources? At worst, I’ll say they’re not legit, you’ll say mine aren’t legit, and we’ll have to end in a stalemate.

  4. Shocking to see the shameful events and connections all recapped in one article (vs. deceptively in the back pages of America-hating mainstream media).

  5. Thank you for a comprehensive and detailed explanation of the past and current events with Russia and China. I’ve had an uneasiness about what’s going on in the world, but much of what you write I had little or no knowledge. The information we get in the current media is not useful and very biased. I so appreciate the time and effort you put into your articles.

  6. Robert VanBuhler

    For me, the Elephant in the Ukraine Room is the coup fomented by Victoria Nuland and the Obama State Department which resulted in the flight of the duly elected President of the Ukraine and installation of a corrupt, pro-Western successor government. One might argue that Yanukovych was no more corrupt than his predecessors or those who followed. He just got along with the Russians and was reluctant to integrate with EU at the expense of ties with Russia. One might further argue that one of the biggest faults of the US Government is supporting any corrupt foreign government that supports the USA, or feeds at its trough of largess. An equally striking example is our current stance in Somalia, where we are recommitting to supporting a corrupt regime as bad as those who oppose it.

    1. So… Obama is both the bad guy poking the Bear in Ukraine, but also the guy who could be “flexible on missile defense” and just let Putin walk in and take Crimea. Hmmm. If it was all a coup, why did the Ukrainians not throw Z and co out last February?

      There are only so many democracies in the world. Isn’t a government’s trajectory important? International monitors (just google “is Ukraine a democracy” for the list) have been reporting for a long time that Ukraine is moving in the direction of greater democracy and transparency. Heck, right now a lot of heads are rolling in Ukraine as Kyiv starts a new round of anti-corruption purges. Who would you limit our list of allies to?

      1. You can’t really believe that. This is straight propaganda. Ukraine is not and never was a Democracy. It’s been a pawn of foreign power for centuries. It’s currently a client state of the U.S. which is less pejorative-sounding than puppet state but same diff. The economy of Ukraine is in shambles even before the war. A devalued currency, a non-diversified economy which presents a lack of opportunity unless you are well-connected with the agricultural barons who are corrupt. And who are these “international monitors”? The glorious UN or one of their related NGOs? A group that George Soros is funding? Which brings me to its ties with the globalists and the WEF, specifically. Zelensky is unequivocally their guy. So it’s obvious that this is not just Ukraine fighting for its sovereignty or a fearful Europe worried about Russian aggression or NATO’s concerns about integrity of borders. It’s about nationalism vs. globalism and the latter’s determination to institute a New World Order/“Great Reset” that will bring Russia to its knees.

        1. Hi Aly, I do, and I think I have good reason to.

          Let’s start with an article that begins by admitting some of your claims: Newsweek “Is Ukraine a Democracy: Separating Fact From Fiction”
          Freedom House “Ukraine: Country Profile” will be much the same. You can look at Zelenskyy in particular at Journal of Democracy “How Zelenskyy has Changed Ukraine”. Then there’s the invasion itself: Atlantic “Russia’s Invasion is Making Ukraine More Democratic”.

          I suspect you won’t accept my sources, but maybe you will. From what sources do you get your information?

          I’m also unsure what the crushed state of U’s economy has to do with your point. Could you clarify?

          1. Those sources you cited are biased and I’ve never heard of Freedom House. Zelensky was installed by the globalists. He was in their Young Leadership program and was listed on at least one of their committees. The globalists are unelected elites who don’t give a damn about democracy. They’re unapologetically authoritarian in their vision for the future. Furthermore, democracy is a fluid concept. China considers itself a democracy because they have “elections”. Same with any number of third world countries ruled by despots whose “fair elections” provide them with cover. Ukraine’s periodic cleansings of “corruption” are really purges of political enemies. They learned well from Mother Russia.

          2. Hi Aly. Would you tell us what sources you trust and why you believe them to be objective? If you want to know more about Freedom House and other international monitors, just click the “about link”. Would you accept a source like “Bellingcat” that draws it’s employees from around the globe but exists as a hub of citizen journalism? I’m unsure why you go on to say the “Democracy” is a squishy term. How do you think the sources I mentioned are using the word and what is the appropriate use? Finally, Zelenskyy was installed by the Ukrainian people in an election. There are globalist out there, but you seem to think they have more control than they do. When the war broke out, The Globalists wanted Zelenskyy to run and Ukrainians to cave. Their particular patriotism changed the Globalists’ minds.

  7. A bit difficult to absorb all the complexities here.  Undercurrents and initiatives with belligerent Russia and other nations. For certain, very costly, wasteful and unnecessary — putting it plainly, a bit STUPID for peaceful people.  One thing for sure, as pointed out in the first paragraph, the Ukraine fiasco is steeped with danger and the possibility of staggering fatalities.  IMHO, it is a Stinking Mess that no nation needs.  Trump left us with a relatively peaceful world and a balance of world power to be shattered a short year ago.  Are we moving in slow motion surely and squarely to Armageddon?  The thought of drawing Turkey and India into the orbit of the “Bad Guys” is particularly distressing.
    –Jack B

    1. Please allow me to dip an oar in the water re: President Trump. If the truth were known, Most All of America really, really misses President Trump. I say Trump is the very last chance for the America as we know it. It seems America NEVER learns!
      Captain USN (ret)

  8. From

    Before and during the Second World War, American industries had successfully converted to defense production as the crisis demanded, but out of the war, what Eisenhower called a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions emerged. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience Eisenhower warned, “[while] we recognize the imperative need for this development…We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Eisenhower cautioned that the federal government’s collaboration with an alliance of military and industrial leaders, though necessary, was vulnerable to abuse of power. Ike then counseled American citizens to be vigilant in monitoring the military-industrial complex.

    My comment: The complex has figured out a way to get paid billions without sacrificing American lives. The generals who run the military are the same people who head up Raytheon and Boeing.

  9. The conscription age in Ukraine goes up to 60! They continue to run out of weapons. What happens when they start running out of soldiers? Where will their reserves come from?

  10. Now Hanson speaks like himself! I may not agree with all the points of this assessment, but Victor spells out his position in clear, measured, and precise language. This is a position that can be argued with, debated, and elaborated upon. Well done!

  11. I almost always applaud your critiques, but I have to say I remain much more a hawk regarding our (admittedly dangerous) support for Ukraine against Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine. And I hope Robert Kagan is right regarding what America’s response would be if China were invade Taiwan.

    1. John, could you spell out for us why you’re hawkish. Defenders of Ukraine aid are far too modest and quiet on this site. Any mention of the Ukrainians here will draw tirades from our local commissars, anti-government paranoids, Integralists, and isolationists. Giving an actual salvo in return would be welcome.

    2. Don’t you think we, the USA, kind of provoked Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After all they had over a hundred thousand (or was it 200,000?) troops at their border for months. It was as if they were waiting for some assurances from us as to why there is no need to invade. Yet, we were instead openly considering making them a NATO member. How could Russia allow for such a thing?

      Put the shoe on the other foot. What was JFK’s reaction to the then Soviet Union snuggling up to Cuba? It was intolerable, and we weren’t going to have it. So, if the Ukraine ever did become a NATO member as was being openly considered, what kinds of weapons would they have harbored?

      It seems to me, that yes we should have welcomed Ukraine’s pro-westerness, but we should have done it quietly, all the while trying to give Russia the assurances it needed. No, instead we waved a red flag and poked the bear. And this is what we got.

      1. By “snuggling up to Cuba” I meant placing soviet missiles there. They of course already were a benefactor of Castro.

      2. Naw, I don’t think so. Btw. your syntax is a little off here. I make plenty of mistakes myself, but … were you typing in a rush? Anyhow, you seem to be forgetting that Putin had already invaded Eastern Ukraine in 2014. That sort of land grab does tend to cause neighboring countries to freak out a bit. What kind of “assurances” do you think a chronic land-grabber like Putin would have accepted? I mean, after Chechnya and Georgia, and Putin’s long-rambling-revaunchist -speech, NATO can be forgiven for thinking that Putin is set on restoring the old Soviet Empire no matter what pledges or concessions NATO gives him. Was Obama’s “compromise” on missile defense not enough? Was W not friendly enough? Trump was chummy in words and firm in deeds -is that what poked the Bear? Hell, Joe even said he wouldn’t mind a “little” encroachment. Looks like it was Old Vladdy Daddy who kept poking Europe, and America, and their allies, and Morocco, and the ‘stans, until they all turned around and bit him!

        1. Yes, a little rushed. But believe it or not, I do proof-read before I post. Then once posted, i read it again and often find errors that I missed. I don’t worry too much about it though, as long as I believe the message I am trying to convey is not ambiguous. If I am consistent, you’ll probably see some errors in this response, as well.
          All I was trying to point out, is that the 100k -200k Russian troops were on the border for months. During which time I read nothing in the press that suggested the Biden team was trying to defuse the situation.
          Even though the Russian agreement with Ukraine was: if Ukraine gave up their nukes when the USSR was breaking up, Russia would respect their borders. (Neither China (ie., Hong Kong) or Russia respect such agreements) So, yes Putin is a land grabber. But the USA talking favorably about Ukraine entering NATO, in my view, was an existential threat to Russia. Then later, Biden was actually talking of regime change. Prudent leaders do not do this when their foe has nuclear weapons!
          There was no Ukraine encroachment during Trump’s four years as POTUS. He was too unpredictable. So, I don’t see how he poked the bear.

          1. Thomas, thanks! That helps clarify things quite a bit. I have to recheck all my posts too since I suffer from dyslexia. I don’t want to be a grammar Nazi, but I also don’t want to miss that someone is writing in their 2nd, or 3rd language, and there are always bots.

            If I understand you correctly, the heart of your “poking the bear” argument is NATO accepting a petition from Ukraine to join NATO. My response to this is that Ukraine lobbied for NATO membership for years and it ended up facing endless red tape as an obvious telegraph to Russia: “we appreciate your strategic interests, so mind your own business and we’ll keep Ukraine out so long as you do”. Not very provocative to my way of thinking.

            That said, did I address your argument? Is there a point or emphasis that I’m missing? Thanks!

  12. I almost always applaud your critiques, but I have to say I remain much more a hawk regarding our (admittedly dangerous) support for Ukraine against Russia’s criminal invasion. And I hope Robert Kagan is right regarding what America’s response would be if China were to invade Taiwan.

  13. Your first paragraph reflects my own thoughts on that conflict. The rest of the piece speaks of complex things; important implications; that would require a far longer discussion than could be made in a comment. As well, you speak of several things I have no knowledge of. I note that media is now demonizing China, using biased vocabulary but few facts. China has given Africa a larger amount of assistance with its modernization than has any other country. The UN and others have lauded China for this work. One of the grading standards the UN used was selflessness, how much of the work was not just for the benefit of the helper. China gave loans that were easier to pay back, and the only time some African countries were in trouble with loans, help, was with the US, not China, or Russia, others. Yet there is the popular notion in the US that China seized properties in default, etc. This just touches on what I have researched. Now China is doing more business in other countries and the US doesn’t like it and is revving the people up. The US was free to do what China did, but didn’t, and now is attempting to get something it didn’t earn. When countries are in conflict, the US, and others, arm the sides they think favorable to them. China doesn’t arm sides, China seeks to do business and toward that end, maintains cordial relations. These things aren’t being revealed in our media.

    1. Hi Anna, your syntax is a little peculiar. Are you from an African nation? Is your comment coming from first hand experience? I was listening to Vera Songawe, a Cameroonian who’s served in the UN, on H.R.McMaster’s Battlegrounds podcast and her take was rather different.

      1. Ok. So the answer is “no”? Can you answer my other questions? I spent time in West Africa, and China’s involvement on the continent genuinely interests me.

  14. The only thing VDH failed to cite in this oped was Robert Gate’s assessment that ‘Joe Biden has been wrong on every Foreign policy of the last 30 years’. That was back in the day as Obama’s VP and has extended to today at the detriment of the USA.
    This nation may sorely regret that more US citizens failed to listen to Professor Hanson’s summation of the dangers posed by China and Russia resulting in a feckless response by the corrupt Biden cabal.

    1. Biden wanted to bail on Ukraine (Give Zelenskyy a ride)and has been dragged kicking and screaming ever since by a bipartisan Congress (see inexplicable about faces in what aid Biden will and will not promise).

      1. One could argue that providing Ukraine the proper military defense systems while Putin was amassing troops along the border could have prevented the invasion.
        At that time Biden proved to be wrong in his belief that Zelensky needed a ride out of of Kiev in that the Ukrainian people were unwilling to fight for their country.
        Wrong believing Putin would not invade, as it would be “a minor incursion”!

        IMO Gates nailed it regarding Joe Biden!


    1. Ransacking (in all caps no less!)! Goodness! Just how much do you think they gave the Ukrainians?

      As a side note, the relationship between Israel and Ukraine is always going to be complicated not only because Israel is a fortress state, but because Eastern Europe and Russia are some of the most traditionally antisemitic places on Earth and news of the Jewish State giving Ukraine’s Jewish President aid is bound to become fodder for the global antisemitic machine.

  16. What is not being said about Chinese balloons is

    That they are test for biological weapons — spreading virus spores

  17. Occam’s Razor:
    1. Keep it simple
    2. The law of parsimony.
    3. The simplest of competing theories are preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities.

    All three ideas summed up as: Follow the Money (FTM).

    As the war in Afghanistan ended, the military industrial complex needed a new place to spend our money, All of the sudden we are funding a war in Ukraine, though not a single US citizen voted for that war.

    Example? Big Pharma and the US government lied to the public about covid and teamed up to create billions for the vax makers. FTM.

    Nobody in congress has the ability to trace exactly where all this war money is going. FTM.

    The longer game is the depletion of our munitions. Of course, we will need to fund the war machine to replenish our stock piles. We can hear the screams of panic already. FTM.

    Most con jobs appear preposterous and impossibly obvious. That’s why they work.

    The “tell”? All of the government controlled MSM howled in unison about Russia prior to the invasion. That does not happen without central planning and direction.

    1. The razor is only meant to be used when addressing multiple answers that seem to otherwise equally explain the the phenomenon being observed. Improper use of the razor leads to oversimplification. What is the equally explanatory thesis you are ruling out?

      1. James (last name omitted for the protection of friend's jobs)

        No, just James-has-some-time-to-post-this-week. I am 40 percent French and can read and speak a little, so the “le bot” makes me laugh. Seriously, I did have that bit about the razor pounded into me in college. Since you laid out the principle in your post, I figured you’d be up to arguing over it.

        1. I do not believe that this forum is set up for “arguing” anything. Tough to do when the responses are two days apart, due to monitored comments. Twitter is the immediate response tool for arguing. Here we just read what VDH says and make a comment. People can agree, disagree, ignore, or just have a laugh. You are in the wrong venue if you want to argue. Certainly you have figured this out by now. Engage with the topic at hand and then move along. These comments get stale very quickly. Good to see that you finally have a surname. However, it’s longer than the hyphenated names seen on the backs of some NFL football players.

          1. Hi Jim. I’ve been here since the beginning of the site and I’ve seen it’s potential and it’s limits. Maybe we should try to converse a bit more. How does it better anyone’s life if I just sound off and won’t let myself be taken to task at least once or twice (like right now). I love the last name parting shot. If I Google your last name, unless I know what I’m fishing for, how do I know I’ve found the right Reynolds? Moreover, how do I know Reynolds is your real name? If I have some context, I can probably tell, otherwise it’s just a form of virtue signaling if you’re going to make it some sign of your authenticity.

  18. Russia invaded Ukraine to prevent BP and Blackrock Associates from capitalizing on Sea of Azov petroleum resources and of the year-around grain production farmlands along its shores. From a cultural aspect the Western Ukrainian Cossacks had more allegiance to the Russian Orthodox Church than they did to the Roman Catholic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as did the Eastern Ukrainian aristocrats, kulaks, merchants and serfs. These are not new rivalries or grievances but part of a tapestry of history and culture several thousands of years in the making that even WWII could not erase.

    1. What do you think follows from this, Greg? You could use it to argue that Ukraine has a distinct cultural and political identity. You could argue that there will not be a lasting peace until one side wipes out the other. What inferences should we draw?

  19. James, this is a response to your question of me on Feb. 10th @ 11:03 A.M. (for some reason there was not a “reply” option under your list post. Perhaps they want to limit the back an forth ???)

    You wrote in your question of me that followed this statement of yours: “we appreciate your strategic interests, so mind your own business and we’ll keep Ukraine out so long as you do”. Not very provocative to my way of thinking.

    My response: If your comment above accurately describes the exchange between USA/Nato and Russia, I would agree with you. It is not very provocative. But that is not how I remember it.

    As I remember, prior to this crisis developing there was real consideration being reported in the media of Ukraine being admitted into NATO. If I have this correct, then that would be highly provocative, in my view. The comparison I used was the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960’s. JFK was not going to stand for soviet missiles in Cuba. Period. And I thought Putin wouldn’t either.

    There’s not much more I can write on this. Do I have it wrong on NATO provocatively warming up to possible membership for Ukraine, I don’t think so, but folks are free to disagree.

    1. Thomas, I noticed that the comments thread cuts off too. Too bad! An academic site should foster as much discussion as possible. Thanks for your courtesy, it puts me to shame (I do mean that). I think you identified the key point. What’s driving my view is that Ukraine began the process of trying to join NATO in 2008 and still has not been accepted. The worry on all sides (including the people of Ukraine! ) was “poking the bear”. I’m trying to find some articles that we’ll all trust on that, but NBC doesn’t have much currency here (or WaPo. The Radio Free Europe is only talking about since the invasion.) Anyhow, good chat! I’ll do some digging and be ready if the topic comes up again! Stay safe!

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