I have evolved my thinking into the view that Ukraine must join NATO and that NATO troops most overtly enter Ukrainian territory to reinforce and supervise the operations of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in sustaining the front line in Ukraine, because nothing else will cause the Russian Armed Forces to reconsider their continuing offensive and bring the war to an end. Until the war is brought to an end, the colossal quantities of international funding from both the United States and the European Union will have to continue because otherwise Ukraine will collapse and Russia will win. We cannot afford to let Russia win and therefore we will have to keep paying forever - unless we do something dramatic that brings the war to an end. Dripping tanks here, missiles there: that won’t doing it. That won’t turn the tide, because we’re facing the world’s largest mobilised land army.
A friend of mine suggested last night that the problem with my NATO scenario is the danger of escalation - that everyone starts firing nuclear warheads at one-another. Really? I don’t think so. Russia has periodically threatened this but really who cares about threats. They’re just words. Since when did we buckle under idle Russian threats? Russia knows that were she to deploy any sort of nuclear warhead in an active combat scenario, Moscow would be destroyed with a single nuclear strike. Russia may in theory have the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, but in practice nobody know how many nuclear warheads in Russia’s arsenal actually work - not even Russia. She would have to use nuclear weapons first, because the West would not - our conventional armed forces are far superior to those of Russia so we would not need to. The first nuclear warhead might be a dud, and Russia would be destroyed. Anyway Russia would be destroyed. This is the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (“MAD”) that so entertained games theorists during the first Cold War, and it ensured that there never was in fact a nuclear war because the consequences are so atrocious for everyone.
Russia is in fact rational, in her own peculiar way, in the execution of her foreign policy. Although she has scant regard for principles, agreements or laws, she does respect power and she understands the meaning of superior force when that force is deployed in a meaningful way on the battlefield. The reason Russia is continuing to fight this war at all is because she perceives weakness on the part of NATO and the West in that we are not willing to deploy our soldiers on Ukrainian territory. Were we to do so, Russian aggression would have to stop because she would be facing an unstoppable and superior enemy with a massive aerial firepower capacity, colossal naval capacity and troops with far superior equipment. The Russian Armed Forces, in many way a primitive and old-fashioned land army with no tactical flexibility, shocking equipment and very much organised in the same archaic was as the Red Army and even the Russian Imperial Army before that, is no match for a well-organised NATO alliance and then the war in Ukraine would stop because the Russians would realise that they are flatly out-gunned.
So I don’t think NATO troop presence in Ukraine would escalate the conflict. Rather it would dampen down the conflict and bring it to a halt. Until then this war will grind on because Russia, not much caring about the cost in terms of casualties in a fundamentally undemocratic system in which information about casualty numbers is suppressed from the public view, can afford to have it grind on and the West’s resolve might just crack and then Russia can seize more territory. I have to repeat that there is simply no point in trying to reach negotiated peace terms with Russia around a table, without first showing the full extent of military force that the West is prepared to bring to bear to win this war. This is a war that we have to win, not one that we can negotiate our way out of. There are no satisfactory negotiating terms whatsoever to end this war with Russia because Russia will not comply with whatever is agreed - we saw that in the Minsk Agreements supposedly ending the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
What is going on here? The logic of the Russian military and political leadership is surely well understood - perhaps not which is why I persist with my own analyses and argumentation interwoven into these diaries. Perhaps we’ve forgotten what Russia is like. Perhaps we’ve lost all our Kremlinologists here in the West. Stalin’s Red Army was stopped in Berlin not by reason of legal agreements and the percentages agreement and all these bits of paper but because the Red Army met the US Army and it didn’t want a fight with them. That’s what stopped Stalin occupying the balance of central and western Europe and nothing else. And it’s the same here. Replace Stalin by Putin because they’re very similar characters viewed through the lens of history. Putin will not stop until he meets NATO forces, spearheaded by the US military, on the banks of the Dnieper. Only then will he be prepared to engage in serious talks. And then NATO will have to decide whether it is prepared to push forward and recapture the city of Donetsk, that would bring the Russian occupation of Ukraine to an end.
These are the sorts of cold hard decisions that are facing the NATO alliance but nothing less than the future of the NATO alliance is at stake because modern Russia is extremely dangerous for European peace and stability as we have learned over the last decade. Biden versus Trump, debates in Congress: these are sideshows compared to the main issue which is collective will to use the western military-industrial complex to secure Ukrainian territory adequately. Until that will is found the gargantuan sums of money required to sustain Ukraine will be found by western taxpayers and their democratic representatives because there is no choice. I don’t want to be on the last train out of frozen Saigon and I don’t think anyone in the West wants this either. So everyone will just have to keep paying until NATO decides finally to enter Ukraine and take this war over herself, incorporating the enormous Ukrainian Armed Forces under its umbrella in the process.
I hope someone’s listening to these arguments, but I’m getting exhausted again. I feel I need another day off. As I write these words the air raid sirens are wailing outside once more, like mocking crows circling above us all across the city. My phone is pinging and buzzing with warnings of an imminent attack. It’s Sunday morning and I’ve only just got out of bed. I think I should head straight back there and listen to some nonsense on the BBC.